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A Performance Constraint on the Evolution of Trilled Vocalizations in a Songbird Family (Passeriformes: Emberizidae)

Jeffrey Podos
Evolution
Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 537-551
DOI: 10.2307/2411126
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2411126
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Performance Constraint on the Evolution of Trilled Vocalizations in a Songbird Family (Passeriformes: Emberizidae)
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Abstract

Behavioral evolution can be influenced by constraints, for example, of phylogeny and performance. In this paper I describe a pattern in the evolution of birdsongs that may reflect a constraint on vocal performance. Trilled vocalizations from 34 species of songbirds (Passeriformes: Emberizidae) were analyzed. Two acoustic variables, trill rate and frequency bandwidth, were measured for different trill types. In most species, maximal values of frequency bandwidth were found to decrease with increasing trill rates. Further, trills with low trill rates exhibited wide variance in frequency bandwidth, and trills with high trill rates exhibited only narrow frequency bandwidths. The bounded nature of this pattern suggests that performance constraints have limited the evolutionary diversification of trills. In particular, I explore the role of constraints associated with vocal tract modulations during song production and evolution. Identification of this constraint may enhance our ability to explain particular patterns of trill evolution.

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