Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8 (1):85-100 (1985)

No single theory so far proposed gives a wholly satisfactory account of the origin and maintenance of bird-song dialects. This failure is the consequence of a weak comparative literature that precludes careful comparisons among species or studies, and of the complexity of the issues involved. Complexity arises because dialects seem to bear upon a wide range of features in the life history of bird species. We give an account of the principal issues in bird-song dialects: evolution of vocal learning, experimental findings on song ontogeny, dialect descriptions, female and male reactions to differences in dialect, and population genetics and dispersal.We present a synthetic theory of the origin and maintenance of song dialects, one that accommodates most of the different systems reported in the literature. The few data available suggest that large, regional dialect populations are genetically differentiated; this pattern is correlated with reduced dispersal between dialects, assortative mating by females, and male-male exclusion. At the same time, “subdialects” may be formed within regional dialects. Subdialect clusters are usually small and may represent vocal mimicry among a few adjacent territorial males. The relative importance of genetic and social adaptation may contribute to the emergence of subdialects; their distinctiveness may be correlated with the degree of polygyny, for example. Thus, subdialect formation is linked to one theory of the evolution of repertoire size, but data are too fragmentary to examine this idea critically.
Keywords assortative mating   bioacoustics   deceptive mimicry   dialects   dispersal   evolution   genetic adaptation   mate choice   songbirds   song learning
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/s0140525x00019750
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,160
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Animal Species and Evolution.Ernst Mayr - 1963 - Belknap of Harvard University Press.
The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change. R. C. Lewontin.Michael Ruse - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (2):302-304.
Genes, Mind and Culture. [REVIEW]Alex Rosenberg - 1983 - Journal of Philosophy 80 (5):304-311.
Species Concepts and Speciation Analysis.Joel Cracraft - 1983 - In R. F. Johnston (ed.), Current Ornithology. Plenum Press. pp. 159-87.
Sociolinguistic Patterns.William Labov - 1975 - Foundations of Language 13 (2):251-265.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Are Species Intelligent?: Not a Yes or No Question.Jonathan Schull - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (1):63-75.
Culture in Whales and Dolphins.Luke Rendell & Hal Whitehead - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):309-324.
Singing Down a Blind Alley.John Alcock - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (4):630-631.

View all 59 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
44 ( #255,279 of 2,499,401 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #169,712 of 2,499,401 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes