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Female birds sing songs: Was Charles Darwin wrong?

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 19:37

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Canberra: A new research by an international team has overturned the long-held concept that bird song was a male trait to attract females.

The study, which is published in the journal Nature Communications, found that song is almost as common in female birds as in males.

The findings released by Australian National University (ANU) on Wednesday, challenge Charles Darwin`s theory on sexual selection and the evolution of elaborate bird song.
Dr Naomi Langmore, from the ANU’s Research School of Biology said, “Darwin focused on the evolution of song through sexual selection, and assumed bird song was a male trait to attract females, but our findings suggest that bird song may have evolved through a broader process, called social selection, as both sexes competed for food, nest sites, mates and territories.”

Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory, believed the primary role of female birds was to listen to the songs of the males, and instances of female bird song were traditionally dismissed as rare and abnormal.

But the latest study found female song was present in the ancestors of all songbirds, and today remains in 71 percent of the songbird species surveyed.

Dr Langmore said that most songbird species in Australia feature bird song from both males and females, including lyrebirds, fairy-wrens, honey-eaters, fantails, whistlers, and magpies.

She said the songs sung by the female birds were equally melodic as compared to their male counterpart.
The research was carried out by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the University of Melbourne, The Australian National University and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

First Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 19:35
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