EEB Seminar: February 27th

Emma Greig will talk on

Strategic signaling and the evolution of predator-elicited displays in Australian fairy-wrens

at 12:30 in the EEB lounge (BioSciences 4338)

The social context in which signals are given may suggest a lot about their function, but some contexts are more complicated than they appear. The dynamics of antipredator signaling and conspecific advertisement provide a framework in which to investigate how two contexts that are typically considered to have opposing selection pressures on signals may sometimes be complementary. Several species of fairy-wrens (Maluridae: Malurus) give song-like trills in response to vocalizations of avian predators. Despite this alarm context, in some species the trills are thought to function as conspecific-directed displays. Using an experimental approach, we investigate the function of predator-elicited displays in one species, and we test two hypotheses for the evolutionary origin of these predator-elicited trills: 1) Predator-elicited trills originate as antipredator signals, then shift to a display function, or 2) Predator-elicited trills originate as conspecific-directed songs, then shift into a predator context. Our results suggest that these trills may originate through the elaboration of antipredator calls with subsequent inclusion in conspecific-directed displays, providing a possible example of the generation of novel displays through recombination and a shift in context.

a fairy wren

Dr. Emma Greig completed her PhD in 2010 at the University of Chicago, working with Stephen Pruett-Jones, then moved to Cornell as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, where she worked with Mike Webster. Emma is broadly interested in sexual selection, animal behavior, and communication. She has worked extensively with Fairy Wrens, exploring the evolution of signal strategies; signal information, content and the ontogeny signals; and signal divergence in areas of secondary contact. Currently, Emma is the project leader of Cornell’s Project FeederWatch, a citizen science program that records broadscale movements of winter birds by monitoring bird feeders.

Everyone is welcome to attend
Coffee and treats available at the seminar

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