Community convergence in bird song
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- Cardoso, G.C. & Price, T.D. Evol Ecol (2010) 24: 447. doi:10.1007/s10682-009-9317-1
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Species in similar habitats are often similar in morphology or behaviour, attributed to adaptation to similar environmental selection pressures, sometimes mediated by competitive interactions. For passerine songs, similarity of phenotype in identical habitats and character displacement have been documented, the former due to adaptation to the acoustics of the habitat, and the latter due to competition for acoustic space among species. If these phenomena are widespread, they should lead to community convergence of bird songs. Here, we test if passerine communities in similar habitats converge in song attributes or in acoustic differentiation among species. We compared the songs of European and North American Mediterranean climate passerine communities in open and closed habitats. Song frequency varied across different habitats but not continents. This was independent of both phylogeny and body size, indicating community convergence due to acoustic adaptation, rather than species sorting or similarity as a by-product of another type of ecological convergence. We found little evidence for regular spacing in song features among species, as would be expected if acoustic competition shapes within-community structure. However, for one of five song components, the open habitat communities showed a similar distribution of phenotypes on each continent. The proportion of interspecific variation in song explained by these effects was small. The fact that songs are complex signals that vary in many dimensions may explain why competition for acoustic space seems to be of small importance in structuring songs in these passerine communities.