The effect of isolation, fragmentation, and population bottlenecks on song structure of a Hawaiian honeycreeper
Ecology and Evolution, January 2018
Pang‐Ching, Joshua M., Paxton, Kristina L., Paxton, Eben H., Pack, Adam A., Hart, Patrick J.
Little is known about how important social behaviors such as song vary within and among populations for any of the endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers. Habitat loss and non-native diseases (e.g., avian malaria) have resulted in isolation and fragmentation of Hawaiian honeycreepers within primarily high elevation forests. In this study, we examined how isolation of Hawai'i 'amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens) populations within a fragmented landscape influences acoustic variability in song. In the last decade, small, isolated populations of disease tolerant 'amakihi have been found within low elevation forests, allowing us to record 'amakihi songs across a large elevational gradient (10-1800 m) that parallels disease susceptibility on Hawai'i island. To understand underlying differences among populations, we examined the role of geographic distance, elevation, and habitat structure on acoustic characteristics of 'amakihi songs. We found that the acoustic characteristics of 'amakihi songs and song-type repertoires varied most strongly across an elevational gradient. Differences in 'amakihi song types were primarily driven by less complex songs (e.g., fewer frequency changes, shorter songs) of individuals recorded at low elevation sites compared to mid and high elevation populations. The reduced complexity of 'amakihi songs at low elevation sites is most likely shaped by the effects of habitat fragmentation and a disease-driven population bottleneck associated with avian malaria, and maintained through isolation, localized song learning and sharing, and cultural drift. These results highlight how a non-native disease through its influence on population demographics may have also indirectly played a role in shaping the acoustic characteristics of a species.
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