From song dialects to speciation in white-crowned sparrows

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11 Scopus citations


The behavioural signals used in mate selection are a key component in the evolution of premating isolating barriers and, subsequently, the formation of new species. The importance of mating signals has a long tradition of study in songbirds, where many species differ in their song characteristics. In oscine songbirds, individual birds usually learn their songs from a tutor. Mistakes during learning can help generate geographic dialects, akin to those within human language groups. In songbirds, dialect differences can often be substantial and there is an intuitive connection between the evolution of song amongst populations at a small scale, and the more sub-stantive song differences between bird species and pre-sumably used in species recognition. However, studies investigating the concordance between putative genetic and behavioural boundaries have generated mixed results. In many cases, this is possibly a function of the poor resolving power of the genetic markers employed. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Lipshutz et al. (2017) combine genomic markers with a robust behavioural assay to address the importance of song variation amongst white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) subspecies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2842-2844
Number of pages3
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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