Discrimination of different social companions in spectacled parrotlets (Forpus conspicillatus): evidence for individual vocal recognition
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Individual recognition is generally assumed to be a prerequisite for establishing and maintaining a complex social system. Indeed, there is good evidence that highly social species have complex systems of vocal communication with individual recognition by acoustic cues. In this study, we provide experimental evidence that vocal class and individual recognition is present in a non-passerine bird, the spectacled parrotlet (Forpus conspicillatus). Spectacled parrotlets live in a complex system of social relationships. Soon after fledging, the young establish close sibling relationships which are important for successful socialization, pairing and reproduction. In a series of playback experiments we tested if spectacled parrotlets use contact calls for vocal recognition. The results showed that spectacled parrotlets discriminate between the contact calls of different social categories. Adult birds preferred to respond to the contact calls of their mates. Subadult individuals recognized the contact calls of their siblings. During the period of pair bond formation, the affiliative contacts to the siblings decrease, but the parrotlets continue to respond to the calls of their siblings. This is the first evidence that vocal sibling recognition might outlast the period of strong sibling interaction and extends into the period of pair bond formation. In cases of mate loss or divorce, the acoustic contact to their siblings might facilitate the re-establishment of close sibling relationships.
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