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Influences of learning and predispositions on frequency level preferences on female canaries (Serinus canaria)

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In many species, females show preferences for male vocalizations emitted at low-pitched frequencies. This acoustic parameter seems to be a reliable indicator of male quality. This study aims to evaluate whether modifying the frequency range of male song enhances female canary preferences. To do so, we used the most well-known type of song emitted by male canaries called 'sexy' phrases. These phrases are composed of two-note syllables emitted at a high-speed rhythm with a large frequency bandwidth. Two experiments were carried out, both using copulation solicitation displays as a preference index. In the first experiment, the frequency levels of sexy phrases were modified and female preferences for high, normal or low-pitched frequencies were tested. In the second experiment, only frequency levels of notes that immediately precede and follow the sexy phrases were changed in order to verify if the contrast between the frequency of sexy phrases and of surrounding notes influences female response. Moreover, to evaluate female predispositions and the influence of learning on these predispositions, we tested and compared females reared in acoustic isolation and females reared with singing males. Our study reveals that both groups of females prefer sexy phrases emitted at normal and low frequencies. These results let us suppose that learning helps to maintain present predispositions. The second experiment shows that there is no influence of the frequency contrast between sexy phrases and surrounding notes on these preferences in either group.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire d'Ethologie et de Cognition Comparées, Université Paris X-Nanterre, bâtiment BSL, 200 avenue de la République, 92001 Nanterre, France;, Email:; 2: Laboratoire d'Ethologie et de Cognition Comparées, Université Paris X-Nanterre, bâtiment BSL, 200 avenue de la République, 92001 Nanterre, France


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