Graduate Fellow

Factors shaping acoustic signal evolution and implications for decision-making contexts

PI(s): Matthew Wilkins (University of Colorado at Boulder (Boulder,CO))
Start Date: 26-Sep-2013
End Date: 8-Nov-2013
Keywords: behavior, natural selection, sexual selection, communication

Acoustic signals are used in a broad range of taxa across a variety of contexts, from species recognition to territory defense and mate choice. For this reason, determining the processes responsible for acoustic signal evolution is essential to achieve a fuller understanding of communication and decision-making in a wide swath of the animal kingdom. Although many studies have considered the effects of ecological or sexual selection on signal evolution, few have determined the relative importance of these two processes for acoustic signal divergence. This study provides a comparative framework for assessing how differences in environmental factors and social selective forces can affect signal evolution in a broad dataset including birds, frogs, and insects. The proposed approach will utilize predictions for acoustic variation provided by metabolic theory of ecology as a basis for comparison across lineages. Additionally, because different selection regimes may result in different information content of signals, results from population-scale studies will be used to determine if broad conclusions on selective forces shaping acoustic variation can predict the behavioral contexts in which signals are utilized.