Changing climate make mockingbirds better singers

May 22nd, 2009 - 2:06 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 22 (ANI): Mockingbirds tend to sing fancier tunes with changing climate, say researchers.

The research team from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre (NESCent), the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and McGill University showed that species in more variable climes also sing complex tunes.

“Survival and reproduction become more complicated when weather patterns are unpredictable because you don’t know when food will be available or how long it will be around,” said Carlos Botero, a postdoctoral researcher at NESCent in Durham, NC.

And the consequences of picking a mediocre mate are magnified in harsher climes.

“In really difficult or demanding environments you would expect females to be choosier,” he added.Botero said that male mockingbirds sing primarily to impress mates and superior singing skills are a cue that a male is a good catch.

“Complexity of song display - how many song types a bird sings, how hard the songs are - is a good predictor of the quality of the individual,” he said.

“Males that sing more complex songs tend to carry fewer parasites, and have offspring that are more likely to survive,” he added.

Moreover, singing skills may be a sign that males are clever enough to cope with iffy environments.

“Individuals that are more intelligent tend to be better able to compensate for the difficulties of unpredictable climates,” said Botero.

“For example, if some individuals are able to invent new foraging techniques, then they are going to be better at surviving harsh winters than the poor guys who only know one way to forage.

“The more intelligent you are, the more resourceful you are, and the more curve balls you’re able to handle,” he added.

During the study, Botero and his colleagues studied nearly 100 tracks from 29 mockingbird species and found that species subject to more variable and unpredictable climates had more elaborate song displays.

The connection between birdsong and climate is new and somewhat surprising, Botero explains. “We’re connecting two dots that were far away before.” (ANI)

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