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Female rock sparrows (Petronia petronia), not males, respond differently to simulations of different courtship interaction outcomes

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Animals communicate in networks which spread beyond the classic sender-receiver dyad. Researchers have often concentrated on networks of signalling males, but the network-level effects of male-female signalling interactions are largely unexplored, even though these can contain information when individuals of both sexes have access to a range of mating strategies. We tested whether rock sparrows (Petronia petronia) behave differently after hearing playbacks of vocal interactions simulating a successful courtship as opposed to playback of an unsuccessful courtship. We found no support for our prediction that males which heard a successful courtship simulation would increase the frequency of sexual behaviours compared with those which heard the unsuccessful courtship. Females which heard the successful courtship simulation stayed longer at the nest site and inside the nest box compared with those which heard the unsuccessful courtship simulation. Therefore, females responded to the treatments as if these represented different degrees of competition for either mates or nest sites. This is, to the best of our knowledge, among the first experimental demonstrations that female birds intercept signalling interactions between males and females and suggests that information available through communication networks can be relevant for an animal's choice of breeding strategy.

Affiliations: 1: Animal Behaviour Group, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Cornwall, UK; 2: Duchy College, Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, UK; 3: Animal Behaviour Group, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, UK; GFF 127 Kennington Avenue, Bishopston, BS7 9EX Bristol, UK; 4: Animal Behaviour Group, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, UK


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