Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 2–3, pp 171–190 | Cite as

Vocal variation in Chiroxiphia boliviana (Aves; Pipridae) along an Andean elevational gradient

  • Mariana Villegas
  • John G. Blake
  • Kathryn E. Sieving
  • Bette A. Loiselle
Original Paper


Bird vocalizations are likely shaped both by natural and sexual selection. Here we test the sensory-drive hypothesis, which states that communication signals diverge as a direct adaptation to the signaling environment and can evolve to minimize degradation and maximize transmission. We examined the effects of elevation and other habitat variables on variation in vocalizations of Chiroxiphia boliviana (Aves, Pipridae) along an elevational gradient (1300–2500 m) in cloud and humid montane forests in the Andes of Bolivia. We also conducted sound transmission experiments to determine if reverberation and attenuation changed along the gradient. Reverberation increased at higher elevations, and attenuation decreased at higher elevations and increased for higher frequencies. We recorded vocalizations from ~ 50 individuals throughout the elevational gradient and examined variation in duration and bandwidth of short calls (used as contact calls between males), 2 display calls (advertisement for females) and 2 types of male–male duets (including interval times between males). Duration of short calls, display 1 and duet 1 increased with elevation. Bandwidth of short calls increased at mid-elevation categories and decreased at high elevations, whereas bandwidth of display 1 and duet 1 decreased with elevation. We also directly related the transmission properties to vocalizations and found that bandwidth of short calls decreased with reverberation and attenuation, bandwidth of display 2 decreased with reverberation, and duration of duet 1 both increased and decreased with attenuation (at 3 and 4 kHz, respectively). This study suggests that vocalizations by C. boliviana may be adapted to the habitat transmission properties along the elevational gradient; and perhaps that increasing song length and concentrating energy within a narrow bandwidth may lead to an increase in amplitude and improvement in transmission. Overall, our results support the sensory-drive hypothesis and suggest that this form of selection is likely common along tropical elevational gradients.


Andes Bolivia Lek Manakins Sensory-drive Suboscines Vocalizations 



We thank M. Symonds, two anonymous reviewers and an associate editor, whose comments and suggestions greatly improved this manuscript. We would like to thank R. Kimball and J. Austin for their advice and valuable insights on previous versions of the manuscript. We also thank J. Lucas for an interesting discussion and assistance in the use of Praat. We are grateful to the Dirección General de Biodiversidad y Áreas Protegidas from Bolivia for providing research permits (MMAyA-VMA-DGBAP No. 490/11). M. Villegas would like to thank M. Gonzalez, E. Quenta, V. Lazo, D. Morón, A. C. Paca, A. Rojas, D. Torrico and M. Villegas for their much appreciated assistance in the field. This research was partially funded by the College for Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Florida.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2018_9934_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1081 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife Ecology and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Latin American StudiesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Mayor de San AndrésLa PazBolivia

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