[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Animals use honest signals to assess the quality of competitors during aggressive interactions. Current theory predicts that honest signals should be costly to produce and thus reveal some aspects of the phenotypic or genetic quality of the sender. In songbirds, research indicates that biomechanical constraints make the production of some acoustic features costly. Furthermore, recent studies have found that vocal features are related to genetic diversity. We linked these two lines of research by evaluating if constrained acoustic features reveal male genetic diversity during aggressive interactions in ocellated antbirds (Phaenostictus mcleannani). We recorded the aggressive vocalizations of radiotagged males at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, and found significant variation in the highest frequency produced among individuals. Moreover, we detected a negative relationship between the frequency of the highest pitched note and vocalization duration, suggesting that high pitched notes might constrain the duration of vocalizations through biomechanical and/or energetic limitations. When we experimentally exposed wild radiotagged males to simulated acoustic challenges, the birds increased the pitch of their vocalization. We also found that individuals with higher genetic diversity (as measured by zygosity across 9 microsatellite loci) produced notes of higher pitch during aggressive interactions. Overall, our results suggest that the ability to produce high pitched notes is an honest indicator of male genetic diversity in male-male aggressive interactions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We studied ocellated antbirds (Phaenostictus mcleannani) to test the hypothesis that reciprocal tolerance between dominant individuals can favour feeding in aggregations. Mated pairs hold large non-exclusive feeding ranges, but roost and nest in a small portion of this range ('roosting area'); adjacent roosting neighbours are unrelated. Ocellated antbirds congregate to feed on arthropods fleeing from nomadic swarms of army ants that move across the ranges of many pairs. We used playback experiments to simulate acoustic challenges, and results showed that males responded aggressively to other males only in their roosting areas. Responses to adjacent neighbours were less aggressive than to non-neighbours (i.e. the 'dear enemy' effect). Prey intake rates were higher when birds fed in their own roosting area or in that of adjacent neighbours compared with more distant sites. Males tolerated adjacent neighbours at swarm fronts where prey are most dense, but more distant neighbours were displaced. Despite small samples for some analyses, our results suggest that reciprocal tolerance between adjacent unrelated neighbours can ameliorate intraspecific competition within ephemeral feeding aggregations.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences