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Variation in pika (Ochotona collaris, O. princeps) vocalizations within and between populations

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Understanding geographic call variation can resolve evolutionary and behavioural questions, yet the factors influencing divergent acoustic signals remain poorly understood in mammals. We explored call variation between collared pikas in Yukon and Alaska and American pikas in Alberta, and between individuals within a population of collared pikas. Classification trees were used to determine the extent of call divergence between populations and the elements of calls driving these differences. Pika populations had significant differences in call structure, and individual pikas were classified to their correct populations with up to 94% accuracy. To investigate possible mechanisms responsible for interspecific variability, we tested the acoustic adaptation hypothesis by using a playback experiment to explore whether American and collared pika calls transmit with less degradation across their own species' habitat than the habitat of their congener. We found no support for the acoustic adaptation hypothesis. Geographic call variation in these two species of pikas likely reflects genetic divergence, and may be a result of separate evolutionary histories. We calculated the potential for individual coding for both time and frequency measurements of calls. High frequency harmonics showed greater between- than within-individual variation, and may act as sources of information regarding individual identity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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