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Fooling the experts: Accurate vocal mimicry in the song of the superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae

Journal Article


Abstract


  • The degree of resemblance between mimics and models provides valuable insight into the evolutionary dynamics of mimicry signalling systems, but for many systems mimetic resemblance has not been quantified. Superb lyrebirds have a reputation for accurately imitating an astonishing variety of sounds that they incorporate into their sexual displays. We assessed the accuracy with which males imitate the complex song of the grey shrike-thrush, Colluricincla harmonica. We measured vocal accuracy by (1) using playback experiments as a bioassay, to determine whether and how shrike-thrushes distinguish between their own song and imitations of shrike-thrush songs by lyrebirds and (2) comparing acoustic properties of mimicked and model songs. Shrike-thrushes reacted just as strongly towards mimetic song as to their own when songs were presented alone. When mimetic song was accompanied by lyrebird song sequences (emulating the lyrebird's natural singing style), shrike-thrushes still usually approached the speaker but less often than when mimetic song was presented alone or when model songs were broadcast. Acoustic analyses showed that imitations were remarkably similar to model songs. However, while lyrebirds maintained the structure and complexity of model songs, they sang fewer repetitions of individual element types. This 'abridging' of model songs is consistent with a trade-off between demonstrating both mimetic accuracy and versatility. Overall, these results indicate strong selection on male lyrebirds to imitate accurately the complex vocalizations of other species, and show that species can integrate contextual information with the signal structure to distinguish between their own signals and imitations. © 2012.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Dalziell, A. H., & Magrath, R. D. (2012). Fooling the experts: Accurate vocal mimicry in the song of the superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae. Animal Behaviour, 83(6), 1401-1410. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.03.009

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84861908310

Start Page


  • 1401

End Page


  • 1410

Volume


  • 83

Issue


  • 6

Abstract


  • The degree of resemblance between mimics and models provides valuable insight into the evolutionary dynamics of mimicry signalling systems, but for many systems mimetic resemblance has not been quantified. Superb lyrebirds have a reputation for accurately imitating an astonishing variety of sounds that they incorporate into their sexual displays. We assessed the accuracy with which males imitate the complex song of the grey shrike-thrush, Colluricincla harmonica. We measured vocal accuracy by (1) using playback experiments as a bioassay, to determine whether and how shrike-thrushes distinguish between their own song and imitations of shrike-thrush songs by lyrebirds and (2) comparing acoustic properties of mimicked and model songs. Shrike-thrushes reacted just as strongly towards mimetic song as to their own when songs were presented alone. When mimetic song was accompanied by lyrebird song sequences (emulating the lyrebird's natural singing style), shrike-thrushes still usually approached the speaker but less often than when mimetic song was presented alone or when model songs were broadcast. Acoustic analyses showed that imitations were remarkably similar to model songs. However, while lyrebirds maintained the structure and complexity of model songs, they sang fewer repetitions of individual element types. This 'abridging' of model songs is consistent with a trade-off between demonstrating both mimetic accuracy and versatility. Overall, these results indicate strong selection on male lyrebirds to imitate accurately the complex vocalizations of other species, and show that species can integrate contextual information with the signal structure to distinguish between their own signals and imitations. © 2012.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Dalziell, A. H., & Magrath, R. D. (2012). Fooling the experts: Accurate vocal mimicry in the song of the superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae. Animal Behaviour, 83(6), 1401-1410. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.03.009

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84861908310

Start Page


  • 1401

End Page


  • 1410

Volume


  • 83

Issue


  • 6