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Acoustic convergence and divergence in two sympatric burrowing nocturnal seabirds

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Shearwaters are nocturnal burrowing seabirds. They return to their colony at dusk and exhibit high vocal activity, underlining the usefulness of acoustic cues to nocturnal communication. The present study aimed to test whether acoustic communication systems of two sympatric shearwater species, the Yelkouan shearwater Puffinus yelkouan and the Mediterranean Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea diomedea, converge to similar strategies. Inter-annual mate fidelity and incubation relays led us to focus on sex and individual acoustic signatures. We first characterized those two signatures by analysing the major call emitted by incubating birds. Second, we performed playback experiments to assess ability of birds to vocally discriminate between sexes and mate versus non-mate. The results obtained show that both species use a reliable sex vocal signature supported by frequency and energy features, enabling sex identification of the emitter. By responding only to conspecific same-sex calls, birds may ensure burrow and mate guarding. Conversely, individual vocal signature was mainly supported by temporal parameters, and was more reliable in the Cory's shearwater. Moreover, this species uses vocal exchanges to identify the mate during incubation relays, whereas Yelkouan shearwaters probably need additional cues. In conclusion, we observe an evolutionary convergence in intra-sex communication process but a divergence in mate greeting strategy. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 96, 115–134.

Keywords: call signatures; communication strategy; mate identification; shearwaters; vocal sex recognition

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Equipe ‘Communications acoustiques’, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, de l'Apprentissage, de la Mémoire et de la Communication UMR CNRS 8620, Université Paris-Sud, F-91405 Orsay cedex, France

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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