WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Dec. 2 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve discovered certain bird species have figured out another bird’s voice can tell them what they need to know in some situations.
Purdue University Associate Professor Andrew DeWoody said he’s found the higher the pitch of a male bird’s song, the more genetic diversity that bird has.
“If you have a diverse set of genes, that can translate into physiology and morphology diversity as well,” DeWoody said.
DeWoody and former Purdue graduate student Johel Chaves-Campos studied ocellated antbirds in the tropical forests of Central America.
The antbirds have several calls, some to attract mates and still others that are defensive or aggressive to protect turf. DeWoody’s research involved recording those calls and matching them to DNA samples of the birds. The results, he said, suggest genetic diversity in antbirds affects their physical abilities to produce certain sounds.
“Our results are consistent with the idea that some sound frequencies are biomechanically difficult to produce,” Chaves-Campos said. “Males that are genetically diverse, and therefore expected to be in better physical condition, are able to produce sound frequencies that males with less genetic variation are unable to reach.”
The researchers said females can pick up on the pitch of the males’ songs to decide which birds will make the best mates.
The research that included Yimen Araya-Ajoy, a graduate student from the University of Costa Rica, appears in the early online edition of the journal PLoS Biology.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International