When climate is iffy, birds sing a more elaborate tune
Why is it that some birds sing such elaborate songs and others not so much? A new study published online on May 21st in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, says that climate patterns might be part of the answer.
The researchers show that difference in song patterns among the many species of mockingbird vary with climate in the diverse places they live. Specifically, species that are subject to more variable and unpredictable climates also have more impressive singing skills.
“Local climatic patterns are great indicators of how demanding life can be at a certain site,” said Carlos Botero of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. “For example, harsher winters, drier dry seasons, or highly unpredictable weather patterns make it harder for animals to survive and reproduce. Our data show that mockingbirds living in more demanding environments tend to have more elaborate song displays. We think that this surprising relationship reflects the fact that just as climatic patterns tell a lot about a site, singing behavior also tells a lot about a singer.”