Meeting Abstract

P1.119  Jan. 4  Early Learning of Behavioral Phenotypes in Red Crossbills SEWALL, K.*; HAHN, T. P.; University of California, Davis; University of California, Davis

Behavioral phenotype can be shaped by learning. The fidelity with which animals learn the behavioral patterns of their parents can impact their fitness and drive population divergence. For behavioral traits to remain stable across generations learning must be directed so that animals acquire the same traits as their biological parents. Underlying predispositions and social interactions are mechanisms known to direct behavioral phenotype learning. We examined the role of predispositions and social interactions in the transmission of flight calls across generations in red crossbills through playback studies and cross-fostering experiments. The flight calls of red crossbills are ideal for examining behavioral phenotype learning because multiple call variants exist in the species, each associated with a different morphology and foraging specialization. Flight calls are central to social assortment and thus serve as indicators of an individuals’ foraging preference. A bird’s fitness depends on its ability to learn the call appropriate for its morphology and foraging specialization, but crossbills of different call types can breed sympatrically. We found no evidence that birds were predisposed to attend to their biological call type in a playback study. Nor did we find a morphological constraint on call production when we compared the calls of adopted siblings with different morphologies. Cross-fostering experiments revealed that early call learning was directed by social experience; young birds imitated the calls of their adoptive parents. We conclude that social experience directs the transmission of call types across generations in red crossbills. Learning directed by social experience may result in occasional learning errors however, which could permit the intermixing of crossbills of different call types.