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Song divergence between subspecies of reed bunting is more pronounced in singing styles under sexual selection

  • Luís de Oliveira Gordinho
  • Eloisa Matheu
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Julio Neto
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 221-231
Publication/Series: Animal Behaviour
Volume: 107
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier Ltd

Abstract english

Song divergence between populations of a species can lead to reproductive isolation and speciation. However, birds may have different singing styles used in distinct social contexts, and songs of each style may change at different rates over time and space. Here, we tested whether song divergence between subspecies of reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, differs with singing style, by comparing song traits of its three singing styles among three subspecies breeding in northern and western Europe. We show that the two singing styles under sexual selection (dawn and fast songs, related to obtaining extrapair and social mates, respectively) diverged significantly more than the slow songs (used as an all-clear signal to nest- attending social females). Multiple song traits differed significantly between the subspecies in all singing styles, with E. s. lusitanica generally being intermediate between E. s. schoeniclus and E. s. witherbyi, and the pattern of song complexity opposing the expected latitudinal gradient (of increasing complexity with increasing latitude). Cluster analyses of populations indicate that sexually selected singing styles are better for discriminating subspecies, describing a scenario of a major split in song features between the migratory, northern E. s. schoeniclus and the two resident, southern subspecies, rather than a clinal variation. The greater song divergence in fast and dawn singing styles suggests that sexual selection may be playing an important role in the incipient speciation of reed buntings.


  • Behavioral Sciences Biology


  • Ecological speciation in reed buntings
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1095-8282
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"