To overlap or not to overlap: context-dependent coordinated singing in lekking long-billed hermits

Marcelo Araya-Salas , Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas , Emily Phillips , Daniel Mennill , Timothy Wright


When using signals to attract mates or defend resources, animals often overlap the voices of other individuals in close proximity. In such contexts signal masking is likely and animals would benefit by adopting behavioural strategies that modify the timing of signals to minimize the negative effects of masking or take advantage of its signalling value. Indeed, temporal coordination has been commonly described in a wide variety of taxa, but compelling evidence demonstrating that it arises as an active process is scarce. Here we investigate the degree of coordinated singing by lekking long-billed hermit hummingbirds, Phaethornis longirostris, in the Neotropics, using randomization tests to study the timing of vocal signals. We first demonstrate that a randomization statistical approach is robust at detecting coordinated singing in simulated data. Then, we show that long-billed hermits engage in vocal interactions in which either song alternation or song overlap is used. Furthermore, we show that singing behaviour varies with the distance between singers: hermits alternate their songs when they are in close proximity, and they overlap songs at farther distances. Birds achieve these two behaviours by modifying the time intervals between signals. The association between pattern of coordination and distance is not fully explained by any of the current hypotheses for song overlap and suggests that multiple context-dependent singing strategies could be involved. Our findings provide compelling evidence on vocal coordination as an active process in this species and validate an analytical approach that could be extended to investigate similar patterns in other taxa.
Author Marcelo Araya-Salas
Marcelo Araya-Salas,,
, Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas KEiZK
Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas,,
- Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology
, Emily Phillips
Emily Phillips,,
, Daniel Mennill
Daniel Mennill,,
, Timothy Wright
Timothy Wright,,
Other language title versions
Journal seriesAnimal Behaviour, ISSN 0003-3472
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets0.5
Keywords in Englishanimal communication, context-dependent strategy, lekking behaviour, randomization test, song alternation, song overlap
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)40
ScoreMinisterial score = 40.0, 20-12-2017, ArticleFromJournal
Ministerial score (2013-2016) = 40.0, 20-12-2017, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators WoS Impact Factor: 2016 = 2.869 (2) - 2016=3.277 (5)
Citation count*0
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* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.