Geographic patterns of song variation in four species of <i>Malurus</i> fairy-wrens

Yandell, David; Hochachka, Wesley M.; Pruett-Jones, Steve; Webster, M.; Greig, Emma

28 November 2017

Geographic variation in song is widespread among birds, particularly in species that learn vocalizations. The relationship between geographic distance and song variation is likely related to the degree of isolation between populations. To assess this effect of geographic isolation on song divergence, we examined patterns of geographic song variation in four species of Australian fairy-wrens (Malurus), two with suspected histories of geographic isolation and two without. Song variation in all four species was consistent with patterns of isolation by distance, and allopatric subspecies in two species were more divergent in song than predicted by distance alone. Each species’ pattern was unique, and some interspecific variation could not be explained by geographic distance. These results indicate that patterns of geographic variation can be influenced by more than geographic distance and historical isolation alone. We suggest that morphological constraints, environmental influences, and sexual selection may all contribute to the variation observed for each species.