Breeding season length predicts duet coordination and consistency in Neotropical wrens (Troglodytidae)

Emily L Keenan, Karan J Odom, Marcelo Araya-Salas, Kyle G Horton, Matthew Strimas-Mackey, Megan A Meatte, Nigel I Mann, Peter J B Slater, J Jordan Price, Christopher N Templeton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Many animals produce coordinated signals, but few are more striking than the elaborate male-female vocal duets produced by some tropical songbirds. Yet, little is known about the factors driving the extreme levels of vocal coordination between mated pairs in these taxa. We examined evolutionary patterns of duet coordination and their potential evolutionary drivers in Neotropical wrens (Troglodytidae), a songbird family well known for highly coordinated duets. Across 23 wren species, we show that the degree of coordination and precision with which pairs combine their songs into duets varies by species. This includes some species that alternate their song phrases with exceptional coordination to produce rapidly alternating duets that are highly consistent across renditions. These highly coordinated, consistent duets evolved independently in multiple wren species. Duet coordination and consistency are greatest in species with especially long breeding seasons, but neither duet coordination nor consistency are correlated with clutch size, conspecific abundance or vegetation density. These results suggest that tightly coordinated duets play an important role in mediating breeding behaviour, possibly by signalling commitment or coalition of the pair to mates and other conspecifics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20202482
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Issue number1941
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2020


  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Male
  • Pair Bond
  • Reproduction
  • Songbirds/physiology
  • Vocalization, Animal


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