Reproductive interference via display signals: the challenge of multiple receivers
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Sexually selected traits important in both mate and competitor recognition provide an opportunity to understand the tradeoffs associated with reproductive and competitive interference. When co-occurring species compete over similar resources, selection may promote signal similarity to facilitate competitive interactions in opposition to selection for signal divergence to maintain assortative mating. Bird song provides a classic example of contrasting selection on signal design, because songs function both in mate discrimination and in territorial advertisement. Similarity in songs aids competitor recognition both within and across species, and song convergence or mixing is widespread in the songbirds. Two related mechanisms can maintain mate recognition in the face of song convergence. First, multiple recognition signals, both across and within signaling modalities, provide a basis for mate and competitor discrimination using different sets of cues. Second, stricter female song preferences may allow interspecific male–male competitive communication without compromising female mate discrimination. I suggest that increased understanding of the neurobiology underlying song recognition will provide insight into the relative importance and prevalence of these different mechanisms along a continuum of species divergence.
KeywordsCompetitive interference Evolutionary tradeoffs Reproductive interference Song Sexually selected signals
I thank Daisuke Kyogoku and the organizers of this special feature for their invitation to contribute and Anna Qvarnström for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology (www.nsf.gov).
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