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      Developmental stress affects song learning but not song complexity and vocal amplitude in zebra finches

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          Several recent studies have tested the hypothesis that song quality in adult birds may reflect early developmental conditions, specifically nutritional stress during the nestling period. Whilst all of these earlier studies found apparent links between early nutritional stress and song quality, their results disagree as to which aspects of song learning or production were affected. In this study, we attempted to reconcile these apparently inconsistent results. Our study also provides the first assessment of song amplitude in relation to early developmental stress and as a potential cue to male quality. We used an experimental manipulation in which the seeds on which the birds were reared were mixed with husks, making them more difficult for the parents to obtain. Compared with controls, such chicks were lighter at fledging; they were thereafter placed on a normal diet and had caught up by 100 days. We show that nutritional stress during the first 30 days of life reduced the birds’ accuracy of song syntax learning, resulting in poorer copies of tutor songs. Our experimental manipulations did not lead to significant changes in song amplitude, song duration or repertoire size. Thus, individual differences observed in song performance features probably reflect differences in current condition or motivation rather than past condition.

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          Most cited references 38

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          Biological signals as handicaps.

           Alan Grafen (1990)
          An ESS model of Zahavi's handicap principle is constructed. This allows a formal exposition of how the handicap principle works, and shows that its essential elements are strategic. The handicap model is about signalling, and it is proved under fairly general conditions that if the handicap principle's conditions are met, then an evolutionarily stable signalling equilibrium exists in a biological signalling system, and that any signalling equilibrium satisfies the conditions of the handicap principle. Zahavi's major claims for the handicap principle are thus vindicated. The place of cheating is discussed in view of the honesty that follows from the handicap principle. Parallel signalling models in economics are discussed. Interpretations of the handicap principle are compared. The models are not fully explicit about how females use information about male quality, and, less seriously, have no genetics. A companion paper remedies both defects in a model of the handicap principle at work in sexual selection.
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            The honesty of bird song: multiple constraints for multiple traits

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              A procedure for an automated measurement of song similarity.

              Assessment of vocal imitation requires a widely accepted way of describing and measuring any similarities between the song of a tutor and that of its pupil. Quantifying the similarity between two songs, however, can be difficult and fraught with subjective bias. We present a fully automated procedure that measures parametrically the similarity between songs. We tested its performance on a large database of zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, songs. The procedure uses an analytical framework of modern spectral analysis to characterize the acoustic structure of a song. This analysis provides a superior sound spectrogram that is then reduced to a set of simple acoustic features. Based on these features, the procedure detects similar sections between songs automatically. In addition, the procedure can be used to examine: (1) imitation accuracy across acoustic features; (2) song development; (3) the effect of brain lesions on specific song features; and (4) variability across different renditions of a song or a call produced by the same individual, across individuals and across populations. By making the procedure available we hope to promote the adoption of a standard, automated method for measuring similarity between songs or calls. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

                Author and article information

                Behav Ecol Sociobiol
                Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
                Springer-Verlag (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                24 March 2009
                July 2009
                : 63
                : 9
                : 1387-1395
                [1 ]Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Fife, UK
                [2 ]Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Communication and Social Behaviour Group, Eberhard-Gwinner-Str, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany
                Author notes

                Communicated by W.A. Searcy

                © The Author(s) 2009
                Original Paper
                Custom metadata
                © Springer-Verlag 2009


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