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Geographical differentiation, acoustic adaptation and species boundaries in mainland citril finches and insular Corsican finches, superspecies Carduelis [citrinella]

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Abstract Aim 

In birds, differentiation of acoustic characters is an important mechanism of reproductive isolation that may lead to an ethological–acoustic barrier, resulting in the formation of new species. We examined acoustic variation in mainland citril and insular Corsican finch populations, with the aim of assessing the degree of acoustic differentiation between both members of the superspecies Carduelis [citrinella] and documenting possible variation between local subpopulations that are geographically isolated. Location 

We chose study sites throughout the geographical ranges of citril and Corsican finches. For the citril finch, we obtained samples from the Black Forest (Germany), the Cevennes (France) and the Pyrenees (Spain); for the Corsican finch, we obtained samples from the islands Capraia and Sardinia (Italy) and Corsica (France). Methods 

We analysed frequent contact calls and elements of the perch song. Vocalization patterns of the study populations were compared by means of discriminant and hierarchical cluster analyses. Results 

There were significant differences in vocalization characteristics of perch songs and contact calls, which permitted unambiguous discrimination of citril and Corsican finch populations. However, we also detected significant differences in contact calls between mainland citril finch subpopulations. There was a pattern of clinal variation in vocalization: short, steeply modulated signals in the northern part of the geographical range (Black Forest) and long, shallowly modulated signals in the southern part (Pyrenees). Main conclusions 

Acoustically, mainland citril and insular Corsican finches separate well in their contact calls and perch songs. However, variation in the two vocalization patterns between subpopulations of mainland citril finches indicates that acoustic characteristics can evolve very quickly, not only on islands but also on the mainland. Local habitat differences may play a crucial role in the rapid evolution of these signals under full or partial isolation of small subpopulations. To judge the importance of signal variation as a pre-mating isolating barrier, future studies will have to determine whether members of the distinct subpopulations are able to match their signals to each other if they re-meet, and whether intraspecific species recognition is still possible.
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Keywords: Acoustic adaptation; Carduelis citrinella; Carduelis corsicanus; Corsican finch; citril finch; island population; pre-mating isolation; speciation; species recognition; vocalization

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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