1 1Laboratoire de Biologie Animale, Université Jean Monnet, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, 23 rue du Dr. Michelon, 42023 Saint-Etienne cedex
02, France; C.N.R.S. UMR 8620 NAMC Mécanismes de Communication, Université Paris XI, Orsay, France
2 2C.N.R.S. UMR 8620 NAMC Mécanismes de Communication, Université Paris XI, Orsay, France
The aim of the present study is to investigate the male blackcap decoding process allowing species-specific recognition in the perspective of possible adaptations for communication in dense vegetation. We played back modified and natural blackcap songs to territorial blackcap males and scored the reaction of the territory owners. We examined the response of blackcap males to artificial songs manipulated to reflect a possible environmental degradation. Territory owners respond strongly even to crude models of conspecific song. Only when frequency modulation is suppressed or the number of syllables in the song is drastically reduced do the territory owners cease to respond. The importance of frequency modulation for species recognition is further emphasised by territory owners' strong response to synthetic sounds, in which rapid frequency modulation is superimposed by a less rapid and a slow frequency modulation within the frequency range of conspecific song. Our results have then put forward the acoustic basis for the initial perception of potential conspecifics. It appears that blackcap species-specific decoding process seems highly tolerant towards song structure modifications. May be this is an adaptation to the propagation acoustic constraints imposed by the forest environment.