Song-based species discrimination in a rapid Neotropical radiation of grassland seedeaters

Pilar Benites, Leonardo Campagna, Pablo L. Tubaro

Published online: 
24 July 2014

Acoustic signals among newly diverged taxa have the potential to convey species identity, information that is key to reducing hybridization. Capuchino seedeaters constitute a remarkable example of recently radiated endemic species from the grasslands of South America. They are sexually dimorphic and show striking differences in male plumage coloration and song. Contrasting with this divergence in phenotype most species show extremely low neutral genetic differentiation and lack of reciprocal monophyly, which is interpreted to be a product of recent common ancestry and hybridization. Here we use field-based playback experiments to test for the first time if males of two species, Sporophila hypoxantha and S. palustris, discriminate between conspecific and heterospecific song. Using various measures of behavior we find that both species react more strongly to their own songs. The response to playback from another southern capuchino cannot be differentiated from that of a control song from a more distantly related Sporophila species. Additionally, we did not find evidence for reinforcement as the response of S. hypoxantha did not differ between individuals that co-occur with S. palustris and those that do not. Our finding suggests that song, a culturally inherited trait, may help maintain reproductive isolation between species in the rapid and explosive capuchino radiation.