Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birdsong is not all about sexual selection: Female birds sing much more often than previously thought

Date:
March 5, 2014
Source:
Leiden, Universiteit
Summary:
In 71 percent of all songbird species with available data, the female sings, too. This is remarkable because in the wake of Darwin’s theory of evolution, birdsong has generally been seen as a characteristic of male birds, allowing them to compete with other males and attract females. The exciting question now is how females apparently repeatedly lost their song in the course of evolution. Why did they stop singing in some lineages, but not in others?

Female Cassin's Finch. Research shows that in 71% of all songbird species with available data, the female sings too.
Credit: wildphoto4 / Fotolia

In 71% of all songbird species with available data, the female sings too. This is remarkable because in the wake of Darwin's theory of evolution, birdsong has generally been seen as a characteristic of male birds, allowing them to compete with other males and attract females.

Leiden biologist Katharina Riebel published this finding on 4 March in Nature Communications, together with an international team.

Message to Darwin: Birdsong is not all about sexual selection

The team studied the available literature on the song of female songbirds. This resulted in the first worldwide survey and the first study of song in females of primitive songbird species. The team used a genetic databank to map the characteristics and evolution of these female songbirds. Their analysis shows that in the common ancestors of modern songbirds of both males and females must have had song. Leiden biologist Riebel says that 'the origin of birdsong must therefore lie not only in sexual selection and competition among males, as suggested by Darwin. It seems more probable that sexual and social selection also played a role in females: song allowed both males and females to compete for the resources necessary for survival and reproduction.'

Female birds have a voice of their own

The current view is that competition for partners led to the evolution of bright colours and a loud song in males, together with substantial sex differences in the brain while the need to avoid predators led to relatively unobtrusive female birds with camouflage colours. Riebel: "Our study disputes the general validity of this view by showing that a) singing female songbirds are very widespread and b) both the females and the males of the ancestors of all modern songbirds must have had song. This means that the preference of females for singing males cannot have been the first and foremost reason for the evolution of song. This is a starting point for alternative scenarios, that so far have not been taken into consideration in birdsong research."

New research questions

The exciting question now is how females apparently repeatedly lost their song in the course of evolution. Why did they stop singing in some lineages, but not in others? And did the pronounced brain sex differences arise each time the females lost their song? Does this mean that the exceptional adaptations for singing and vocal learning in the bird brain and the underlying neural and molecular networks can easily be switched off?


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Leiden, Universiteit. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Karan J. Odom, Michelle L. Hall, Katharina Riebel, Kevin E. Omland, Naomi E. Langmore. Female song is widespread and ancestral in songbirds. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4379

Cite This Page:

Leiden, Universiteit. "Birdsong is not all about sexual selection: Female birds sing much more often than previously thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084604.htm>.
Leiden, Universiteit. (2014, March 5). Birdsong is not all about sexual selection: Female birds sing much more often than previously thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084604.htm
Leiden, Universiteit. "Birdsong is not all about sexual selection: Female birds sing much more often than previously thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084604.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins