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Behavioral plasticity allows short-term adjustment to a novel environment


Gross, K; Pasinelli, G; Kunc, H P (2010). Behavioral plasticity allows short-term adjustment to a novel environment. American Naturalist, 176(4):456-464.

Abstract

Many species are currently experiencing anthropogenically driven environmental changes. Among these changes, increasing noise levels are specifically a problem for species relying on acoustic communication. Recent evidence suggests that some species adjust their acoustic signals to man-made noise. However, it is unknown whether these changes occur through short-term and reversible adjustments by behavioral plasticity or through long-term adaptations by evolutionary change. Using behavioral observations and playback experiments, we show that male reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) adjusted their songs immediately, singing at a higher minimum frequency and at a lower rate when noise levels were high. Our data showed that these changes in singing behavior were short-term adjustments of signal characteristics resulting from behavioral plasticity, rather than a long-term adaptation. However, more males remained unpaired at a noisy location than at a quiet location throughout the breeding season. Thus, phenotypic plasticity enables individuals to respond to environmental changes, but whether these short-term adjustments are beneficial remains to be seen.

Many species are currently experiencing anthropogenically driven environmental changes. Among these changes, increasing noise levels are specifically a problem for species relying on acoustic communication. Recent evidence suggests that some species adjust their acoustic signals to man-made noise. However, it is unknown whether these changes occur through short-term and reversible adjustments by behavioral plasticity or through long-term adaptations by evolutionary change. Using behavioral observations and playback experiments, we show that male reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) adjusted their songs immediately, singing at a higher minimum frequency and at a lower rate when noise levels were high. Our data showed that these changes in singing behavior were short-term adjustments of signal characteristics resulting from behavioral plasticity, rather than a long-term adaptation. However, more males remained unpaired at a noisy location than at a quiet location throughout the breeding season. Thus, phenotypic plasticity enables individuals to respond to environmental changes, but whether these short-term adjustments are beneficial remains to be seen.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:August 2010
Deposited On:06 Dec 2010 12:19
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:16
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0003-0147
Publisher DOI:10.1086/655428
PubMed ID:20701531
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-36321

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