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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.
PMCID: PMC2662740  PMID: 19337589
playback; song; territory defense; sexual selection; assessment
2.  Queen reproductive state modulates pheromone production and queen-worker interactions in honeybees 
Behavioral Ecology  2009;20(5):1007-1014.
The mandibular glands of queen honeybees produce a pheromone that modulates many aspects of worker honeybee physiology and behavior and is critical for colony social organization. The exact chemical blend produced by the queen differs between virgin and mated, laying queens. Here, we investigate the role of mating and reproductive state on queen pheromone production and worker responses. Virgin queens, naturally mated queens, and queens instrumentally inseminated with either semen or saline were collected 2 days after mating or insemination. Naturally mated queens had the most activated ovaries and the most distinct chemical profile in their mandibular glands. Instrumentally inseminated queens were intermediate between virgins and naturally mated queens for both ovary activation and chemical profiles. There were no significant differences between semen- and saline-inseminated queens. Workers were preferentially attracted to the mandibular gland extracts from queens with significantly more activated ovaries. These studies suggest that the queen pheromone blend is modulated by the reproductive status of the queens, and workers can detect these subtle differences and are more responsive to queens with higher reproductive potential. Furthermore, it appears as if insemination substance does not strongly affect physiological characteristics of honeybee queens 2 days after insemination, suggesting that the insemination process or volume is responsible for stimulating these early postmating changes in honeybee queens.
PMCID: PMC2744121  PMID: 22476212
behavior; caste; chemical communication; pheromone; reproduction; social insect

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