Female and male serins (Serinus serinus) respond differently to derived song traits
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We tested if male or female behavior towards manipulated song indicates intra- or inter-sexual selection of two characteristics of serin song that are extreme and evolutionarily derived in this species: high frequency and fast syllable rate. In a first experiment, we monitored vocal responses and attendance to song playbacks. Female behavior indicated a preference for high-frequency song and suggested an aggressive function for fast syllable rates, as fast songs inhibited vocal response. Males did not show discrimination of frequency or syllable rate with this experimental design. The second experiment used a simple approach/no approach design, and in this experiment, males showed stronger discrimination between stimuli than did females. Therefore, sex differences in discrimination appear not to result from differences in perceptual abilities but from differences in the context of stimulus presentation. The second experiment also supported a role of song frequency in female choice, as the effect of frequency was limited to females: males did not respond differently to song frequency and approached high-frequency songs less than females did. Results of this experiment also supported an aggressive function for fast syllable rates, as the effect of fast songs did extend to male behavior. Taken together, our results indicate that the high frequency and fast syllable rate of serin song cannot result from a single selection process: while high frequency may have evolved by inter-sexual selection, syllable rate provokes a pattern of response that is more consistent with intra-sexual selection.