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1.  The deterrent effect of bird song in territory defense 
Using the responses of territory owners to playback to infer the territorial function of acoustic signals is common practice. However, difficulties with interpreting the results of such experiments have obscured our understanding of territorial signaling. For instance, a stronger response to playback is often interpreted as more aggressive, but there is no consensus as to whether this should be in response to the least or most threatening simulated intruder. Rather than following a gradual increase or decrease, the relationship between signal intensity and response strength may instead describe a peaked curve. We manipulated banded wren (Thryophilus pleurostictus) songs to simulate low, median and high performance singers and used these songs as stimuli in playback experiments. Banded wrens were less likely to approach the high performance stimulus compared to the low and median performance stimuli. However, the birds that did approach the high performance stimulus sang more than those that approached the low performance stimulus. In addition, birds were more likely to match the songs when exposed to the median and high performance stimuli compared to the low performance stimuli and song matching predicted approach behavior. These results are in accordance with theoretical models of aggressive encounters in which low performance opponents are challenged without further assessment. Median and high performance opponents however, may require further assessment and the latter may be perceived as too intimidating for approach.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arn135
PMCID: PMC2662740  PMID: 19337589
playback; song; territory defense; sexual selection; assessment
2.  Physically Challenging Song Traits, Male Quality, and Reproductive Success in House Wrens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59208.
Physically challenging signals are likely to honestly indicate signaler quality. In trilled bird song two physically challenging parameters are vocal deviation (the speed of sound frequency modulation) and trill consistency (how precisely syllables are repeated). As predicted, in several species, they correlate with male quality, are preferred by females, and/or function in male-male signaling. Species may experience different selective pressures on their songs, however; for instance, there may be opposing selection between song complexity and song performance difficulty, such that in species where song complexity is strongly selected, there may not be strong selection on performance-based traits. I tested whether vocal deviation and trill consistency are signals of male quality in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon), a species with complex song structure. Males’ singing ability did not correlate with male quality, except that older males sang with higher trill consistency, and males with more consistent trills responded more aggressively to playback (although a previous study found no effect of stimulus trill consistency on males’ responses to playback). Males singing more challenging songs did not gain in polygyny, extra-pair paternity, or annual reproductive success. Moreover, none of the standard male quality measures I investigated correlated with mating or reproductive success. I conclude that vocal deviation and trill consistency do not signal male quality in this species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059208
PMCID: PMC3602011  PMID: 23527137
3.  The deterrent effect of bird song in territory defense 
Behavioral Ecology  2008;20(1):200-206.
Using the responses of territory owners to playback to infer the territorial function of acoustic signals is common practice. However, difficulties with interpreting the results of such experiments have obscured our understanding of territorial signalling. For instance, a stronger response to playback is often interpreted as more aggressive, but there is no consensus as to whether this should be in response to the least or most threatening simulated intruder. Rather than following a gradual increase or decrease, the relationship between signal intensity and response strength may instead describe a peaked curve. We manipulated banded wren (Thryophilus pleurostictus) songs to simulate low-, median-, and high-performance singers and used these songs as stimuli in playback experiments. Banded wrens were less likely to approach the high-performance stimulus compared with the low- and median-performance stimuli. However, the birds that did approach the high-performance stimulus sang more than those that approached the low-performance stimulus. In addition, birds were more likely to match the songs when exposed to the median- and high-performance stimuli compared with the low-performance stimuli, and song matching predicted approach behavior. These results are in accordance with theoretical models of aggressive encounters in which low-performance opponents are challenged without further assessment. Median- and high-performance opponents, however, may require further assessment, and the latter may be perceived as too intimidating for approach.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arn135
PMCID: PMC2662740  PMID: 19337589
assessment; playback; sexual selection; song; territory defense
4.  Isolation and characterization of SNP variation at 90 anonymous loci in the banded wren (Thryothorus pleurostictus) 
Conservation genetics (Print)  2008;9(6):1657-1660.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are becoming more commonly used as molecular markers in conservation studies. However, relatively few studies have employed SNPs for species with little or no existing sequence data, partly due to the practical challenge of locating appropriate SNP loci in these species. Here we describe an application of SNP discovery via shotgun cloning that requires no pre-existing sequence data and is readily applied to all taxa. Using this method, we isolated, cloned and screened for SNP variation at 90 anonymous sequence loci (51kb total) from the banded wren (Thryothorus pleurostictus), a Central American species with minimal pre-existing sequence data. We identified 168 SNPs (a mean of one SNP/305 bp, with SNPs unevenly distributed across loci). Further characterization of variation at 41 of these SNP loci among 256 individuals including 37 parent-offspring families suggests that they provide substantial information for defining the genetic mating system of this species, and that SNPs may be generally useful for this purpose when other markers are problematic.
doi:10.1007/s10592-008-9511-7
PMCID: PMC2593829  PMID: 19060959
Thryothorus pleurostictus; SNP; single-nucleotide polymorphism; paternity analysis

Results 1-4 (4)