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Geographical variation in male calls and the effect on female response in little penguins

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Abstract

We investigated the variation in male advertising calls of two subspecies of little penguins (Eudyptula minor minor and Eudyptula minor iredalei), which live in two different regions within New Zealand. We found that the call frequency in both exhalation and inhalation phrases in male advertising calls differed between the two subspecies. Further, we conducted a reciprocal playback experiment to examine how females at the two geographical locations respond to the local and non-local male calls. Females tended to approach towards their regional calls, indicating that females recognize and might prefer their local male calls. Interestingly, E. minor iredalei females responded vocally to their local calls and took a longer time when approaching, while E. minor minor females did not use any vocalization during the approach and selected their local calls within a shorter time. However, given our limited sample size, we cannot exclude the possibility that these observed differences might be due to individual differences. Thus, further research is required to evaluate whether male mating signals and female responses to the male calls have diverged between the two subspecies.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Barbara and Ray Walter on Tiritiri Matangi Island and Dave Houston in Oamaru for their invaluable help during this study. We gratefully acknowledge Joseph R. Waas who provided the opportunity to pursue this study. We also thank Losia Lagisz, Masatoshi Saikawa and anonymous referees who commented on and improved the manuscript. The University of Waikato provided financial assistance. A permit to conduct research on little penguins was supplied by the Department of Conservation, New Zealand. The University of Waikato Animal Ethics Committee approved our experimental protocol.

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Correspondence to Masamine Miyazaki.

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Miyazaki, M., Nakagawa, S. Geographical variation in male calls and the effect on female response in little penguins. acta ethol 18, 227–234 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-014-0193-5

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