Behaviours such as territorial defence represent functionally integrated traits that underlie multiple behavioural variables such as physical and acoustic responses. Characterizing the multivariate structure of such traits is fundamental to understand their evolution. In bird species that form stable pair bonds and are territorial year-round, both sexes are expected to defend their territory; however, the role that each sex plays in defending their shared territory remains largely unknown. Evidence for the sex-roles during territorial defence is mixed and sex- and context-specific characterizations of territorial defence embracing the multivariate nature of the trait are currently lacking. Here, we investigated sex- and context-specific variation in a hypothesised latent variable called ‘territorial defence’ and tested whether duets were part of territorial defence in a wild population of rufous hornero (Furnarius rufus). To do so, we combined a simulated territorial intrusion approach during nest building and provisioning contexts with a structural equation modelling approach. Our results showed that, in males and females, the six measured behavioural variables were linked by a single latent trait, territorial defence, in both contexts. Flights over the decoy and duet songs were equally good proxies of territorial defence. Although males were defending more the territory than females, pair members showed a positive correlation in their behaviour. The structural equation modelling framework enabled us to capture a complex correlation pattern among behavioural variables, expanding upon a classic body of research on territorial defence. Thus, the combination of classical behavioural approaches with sophisticated statistical analyses brings new exciting possibilities to the field of behavioural ecology.
Territorial defence is a key behaviour in territorial species as it plays a major role in an individual’s reproductive success and survival. Additionally, territorial defence has been proposed as one possible evolutionary driver of duetting behaviour, one of the most fascinating vocal behaviours in birds. As behaviours are evolutionary characters, they must be studied in a multivariate framework. In this study, we focused on characterizing territorial defence during a simulated territorial intrusion in an integrative manner using a structural equation modelling framework. We did so in male and female rufous horneros (Aves: Furnaridae) across two breeding contexts, while simultaneously testing theoretical predictions about the role of duetting behaviour as key part of territorial defence. Overall, our study provides for the first time a sex- and context-comparison of the multivariate, latent variable ‘territorial defence’ in duetting birds, while highlighting the potential of combining field behavioural approaches with structural equation modelling.
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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available in the open repository: Mendeley Data (https://data.mendeley.com/datasets/7ztwn539jd/1).
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We thank Klaus Pichler for his help to prepare the STI and all the ‘INIA Las Brujas’ staff for supporting us with accommodation and equipment during fieldwork. We also thank Facultad de Ciencias and the Ethology lab from Universidad de la República and Juan Carlos Reboreda and the ‘Laboratorio de Ecología y Comportamiento Animal’ at the Universidad de Buenos Aires for the logistical support, and Pablo Tubaro from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales ‘Bernardino Rivadavia’ (MACN) for providing us with the mounted hornero. We are grateful to Manfred Gahr and Michaela Hau for their valuable support. We also thank Yimen Araya-Ajoy, Glenn Cockburn, Luke Eberhart-Phillips and Wolfgang Wickler for constructive criticism on previous versions of the manuscript. Finally, we want to thank the anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on the manuscript.
This work was funded by the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology, and by Idea Wild that provided field equipment.
The experimental procedures of this study have approval by the Ethics Committee of Animal Experimentation (CEUA) of the Facultad de Ciencias of the Universidad de la República, Uruguay (Protocol number 186, file 2400-11000090-16).
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Mentesana, L., Moiron, M., Guedes, E. et al. Defending as a unit: sex- and context-specific territorial defence in a duetting bird. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 74, 111 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-020-02891-4
- Territorial aggression
- Behavioural character
- Phenotypic integration
- Female aggression
- Structural equation analysis