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Cultural evolution and long-term song stability in a dialect population of Brown-headed Cowbirds

O'Loghlen, Adrian L.; Ellis, Vincenzo LU ; Zaratzian, Devin R.; Merrill, Loren and Rothstein, Stephen I. (2011) In Condor 113(2). p.449-461
Abstract

Knowing the extent to which the acoustic structure of songs is temporally stable is essential to understanding how cultural evolution affects song dialects in oscines. The acoustic structure of the most prevalent variant of the flight-whistle song recorded from male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in the Mammoth dialect (Mammoth Lakes, California) from 2005 to 2009 differed significantly and consistently from whistles recorded in 1989 and 1978-1985. The most common whistle variant in the 2005-2009 sample had structural features absent from whistles described in the earlier studies and overall was produced at a consistently lower acoustic frequency. Besides the emergence of this new variant sometime between 1989 and 2005, the... (More)

Knowing the extent to which the acoustic structure of songs is temporally stable is essential to understanding how cultural evolution affects song dialects in oscines. The acoustic structure of the most prevalent variant of the flight-whistle song recorded from male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in the Mammoth dialect (Mammoth Lakes, California) from 2005 to 2009 differed significantly and consistently from whistles recorded in 1989 and 1978-1985. The most common whistle variant in the 2005-2009 sample had structural features absent from whistles described in the earlier studies and overall was produced at a consistently lower acoustic frequency. Besides the emergence of this new variant sometime between 1989 and 2005, the prevalence of other variants of the whistle also changed from 1978 to 2009. Changes reported in other studies of cultural evolution in oscines have been based on lower-level structural elements (notes and syllables), whereas we found that entire songs appear to have evolved as cultural units or memes. We discuss possible mechanisms as to how these changes may have occurred. Despite these changes, the Mammoth whistle still retained the same basic three-syllable structure it had 31 years ago. This stability is notable because of the potential for extreme variation in whistle structure exemplified by the distinct whistles of nearby dialects in the region.

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author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
keywords
Brown-headed Cowbirds, Cultural evolution, Cultural stability, Molothrus ater, Song dialects
in
Condor
volume
113
issue
2
pages
13 pages
publisher
Cooper Ornithological Society
external identifiers
  • scopus:79959361921
ISSN
0010-5422
DOI
10.1525/cond.2011.100103
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
c946d673-23e5-4c5d-85e6-89be0c3527be
date added to LUP
2017-05-09 17:20:30
date last changed
2017-05-30 14:46:31
@article{c946d673-23e5-4c5d-85e6-89be0c3527be,
  abstract     = {<p>Knowing the extent to which the acoustic structure of songs is temporally stable is essential to understanding how cultural evolution affects song dialects in oscines. The acoustic structure of the most prevalent variant of the flight-whistle song recorded from male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in the Mammoth dialect (Mammoth Lakes, California) from 2005 to 2009 differed significantly and consistently from whistles recorded in 1989 and 1978-1985. The most common whistle variant in the 2005-2009 sample had structural features absent from whistles described in the earlier studies and overall was produced at a consistently lower acoustic frequency. Besides the emergence of this new variant sometime between 1989 and 2005, the prevalence of other variants of the whistle also changed from 1978 to 2009. Changes reported in other studies of cultural evolution in oscines have been based on lower-level structural elements (notes and syllables), whereas we found that entire songs appear to have evolved as cultural units or memes. We discuss possible mechanisms as to how these changes may have occurred. Despite these changes, the Mammoth whistle still retained the same basic three-syllable structure it had 31 years ago. This stability is notable because of the potential for extreme variation in whistle structure exemplified by the distinct whistles of nearby dialects in the region.</p>},
  author       = {O'Loghlen, Adrian L. and Ellis, Vincenzo and Zaratzian, Devin R. and Merrill, Loren and Rothstein, Stephen I.},
  issn         = {0010-5422},
  keyword      = {Brown-headed Cowbirds,Cultural evolution,Cultural stability,Molothrus ater,Song dialects},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {449--461},
  publisher    = {Cooper Ornithological Society},
  series       = {Condor},
  title        = {Cultural evolution and long-term song stability in a dialect population of Brown-headed Cowbirds},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/cond.2011.100103},
  volume       = {113},
  year         = {2011},
}