Publications by authors named "Katharina Riebel"

17 Publications

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Animal communication: Lyrebirds 'cry wolf' during mating.

Authors:
Katharina Riebel

Curr Biol 2021 Jun;31(12):R798-R800

Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic address:

During courtship, male lyrebirds create acoustic illusions of a flock of birds fending off a predator. These realistic illusions fool the imitated species to engage in mobbing, but intriguingly lyrebirds produce them only preceding or during copulation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.04.070DOI Listing
June 2021

Foraging zebra finches () are public information users rather than conformists.

Biol Lett 2021 06 23;17(6):20200767. Epub 2021 Jun 23.

Institute of Biology, University of Leiden, 2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands.

Social learning enables adaptive information acquisition provided that it is not random but selective. To understand species typical decision-making and to trace the evolutionary origins of social learning, the heuristics social learners use need to be identified. Here, we experimentally tested the nature of majority influence in the zebra finch. Subjects simultaneously observed two demonstrator groups differing in relative and absolute numbers (ratios 1 : 2/2 : 4/3 : 3/1 : 5) foraging from two novel food sources (black and white feeders). We find that demonstrator groups influenced observers' feeder choices (social learning), but that zebra finches did not copy the majority of individuals. Instead, observers were influenced by the foraging activity (pecks) of the demonstrators and in an anti-conformist fashion. These results indicate that zebra finches are not conformist, but are public information users.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2020.0767DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8219404PMC
June 2021

High heart rate associated early repolarization causes J-waves in both zebra finch and mouse.

Physiol Rep 2021 03;9(5):e14775

Department of Experimental Cardiology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

High heart rates are a feature of small endothermic-or warm-blooded-mammals and birds. In small mammals, the QT interval is short, and local ventricular recordings reveal early repolarization that coincides with the J-wave on the ECG, a positive deflection following the QRS complex. Early repolarization contributes to short QT-intervals thereby enabling brief cardiac cycles and high heart rates. We therefore hypothesized high hearts rates associate with early repolarization and J-waves on the ECG of endothermic birds. We tested this hypothesis by comparing isolated hearts of zebra finches and mice and recorded pseudo-ECGs and optical action potentials (zebra finch, n = 8; mouse, n = 8). In both species, heart rate exceeded 300 beats per min, and total ventricular activation was fast (QRS < 10 ms). Ventricular activation progressed from the left to the right ventricle in zebra finch, whereas it progressed from apex-to-base in mouse. In both species, the early repolarization front followed the activation front, causing a positive J-wave in the pseudo-ECG. Inhibition of early repolarization by 4-aminopyridine reduced J-wave amplitude in both species. Action potential duration was similar between ventricles in zebra finch, whereas in mouse the left ventricular action potential was longer. Accordingly, late repolarization had opposite directions in zebra finch (left-right) and mouse (right-left). This caused a similar direction for the zebra finch J-wave and T-wave, whereas in the mouse they were discordant. Our findings demonstrate that early repolarization and the associated J-wave may have evolved by convergence in association with high heart rates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.14814/phy2.14775DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7953022PMC
March 2021

New insights from female bird song: towards an integrated approach to studying male and female communication roles.

Biol Lett 2019 04;15(4):20190059

4 School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne , Melbourne, Victoria 3010 , Australia.

Historically, bird song has been regarded as a sex-specific signalling trait; males sing to attract females and females drive the evolution of signal exaggeration by preferring males with ever more complex songs. This view provides no functional role for female song. Historic geographical research biases generalized pronounced sex differences of phylogenetically derived northern temperate zone songbirds to all songbirds. However, we now know that female song is common and that both sexes probably sang in the ancestor of modern songbirds. This calls for research on adaptive explanations and mechanisms regulating female song, and a reassessment of questions and approaches to identify selection pressures driving song elaboration in both sexes and subsequent loss of female song in some clades. In this short review and perspective we highlight newly emerging questions and propose a research framework to investigate female song and song sex differences across species. We encourage experimental tests of mechanism, ontogeny, and function integrated with comparative evolutionary analyses. Moreover, we discuss the wider implications of female bird song research for our understanding of male and female communication roles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0059DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6501358PMC
April 2019

Female song is widespread and ancestral in songbirds.

Nat Commun 2014 Mar 4;5:3379. Epub 2014 Mar 4.

Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia.

Bird song has historically been considered an almost exclusively male trait, an observation fundamental to the formulation of Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Like other male ornaments, song is used by male songbirds to attract females and compete with rivals. Thus, bird song has become a textbook example of the power of sexual selection to lead to extreme neurological and behavioural sex differences. Here we present an extensive survey and ancestral state reconstruction of female song across songbirds showing that female song is present in 71% of surveyed species including 32 families, and that females sang in the common ancestor of modern songbirds. Our results reverse classical assumptions about the evolution of song and sex differences in birds. The challenge now is to identify whether sexual selection alone or broader processes, such as social or natural selection, best explain the evolution of elaborate traits in both sexes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4379DOI Listing
March 2014

Social facilitation of male song by male and female conspecifics in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata.

Behav Processes 2012 Nov 28;91(3):262-6. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), Leiden University, NL-2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands.

Zebra finches are a ubiquitous model system for the study of vocal learning in animal communication. Their song has been well described, but its possible function(s) in social communication are only partly understood. The so-called 'directed song' is a high-intensity, high-performance song given during courtship in close proximity to the female, which is known to mediate mate choice and mating. However, this singing mode constitutes only a fraction of zebra finch males' prolific song output. Potential communicative functions of their second, 'undirected' singing mode remain unresolved in the face of contradicting reports of both facilitating and inhibiting effects of social company on singing. We addressed this issue by experimentally manipulating social contexts in a within-subject design, comparing a solo versus male or female only company condition, each lasting for 24h. Males' total song output was significantly higher when a conspecific was in audible and visible distance than when they were alone. Male and female company had an equally facilitating effect on song output. Our findings thus indicate that singing motivation is facilitated rather than inhibited by social company, suggesting that singing in zebra finches might function both in inter- and intrasexual communication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2012.09.006DOI Listing
November 2012

An experimental test of condition-dependent male and female mate choice in zebra finches.

PLoS One 2011 25;6(8):e23974. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

Behavioural Biology Group Institute of Biology (IBL), Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.

In mating systems with social monogamy and obligatory bi-parental care, such as found in many songbird species, male and female fitness depends on the combined parental investment. Hence, both sexes should gain from choosing mates in high rather than low condition. However, theory also predicts that an individual's phenotypic quality can constrain choice, if low condition individuals cannot afford prolonged search efforts and/or face higher risk of rejection. In systems with mutual mate choice, the interaction between male and female condition should thus be a better predictor of choice than either factor in isolation. To address this prediction experimentally, we manipulated male and female condition and subsequently tested male and female mating preferences in zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata, a songbird species with mutual mate choice and obligatory bi-parental care. We experimentally altered phenotypic quality by manipulating the brood size in which the birds were reared. Patterns of association for high- or low-condition individuals of the opposite sex differed for male and female focal birds when tested in an 8-way choice arena. Females showed repeatable condition-assortative preferences for males matching their own rearing background. Male preferences were also repeatable, but not predicted by their own or females' rearing background. In combination with a brief review of the literature on condition-dependent mate choice in the zebra finch we discuss whether the observed sex differences and between-studies differences arise because males and females differ in context sensitivity (e.g. male-male competition suppressing male mating preferences), sampling strategies or susceptibility to rearing conditions (e.g. sex-specific effect on physiology). While a picture emerges that juvenile and current state indeed affect preferences, the development and context-dependency of mutual state-dependent mate choice warrants further study.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023974PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3162017PMC
April 2012

Individual benefits of nestling begging: experimental evidence for an immediate effect, but no evidence for a delayed effect.

Biol Lett 2011 Jun 1;7(3):336-8. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NIOO-KNAW, PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands.

The evolutionary stability of honest signalling by offspring is thought to require that begging displays be costly, so the costs and benefits of begging--and whether they are experienced individually or by the whole brood--are crucial to understanding the evolution of begging behaviour. Begging is known to have immediate individual benefits (parents distribute more food to intensely begging individuals) and delayed brood benefits (parents increase provisioning rate to the brood), but the possibility of delayed individual benefits (previous begging affects the current distribution of food) has rarely, if ever, been researched. We did this using playback of great tit Parus major chick begging and a control sound from either side of the nest. Male parents fed chicks close to the speaker more when great tit chick begging, but not other stimuli, was played back. In contrast, there was no effect of playback at the previous visit on the chicks that male parents fed. We have thus demonstrated an immediate individual benefit to begging, but found no evidence of a delayed individual benefit in this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2010.0870DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3097847PMC
June 2011

Are high-quality mates always attractive?: State-dependent mate preferences in birds and humans.

Commun Integr Biol 2010 May;3(3):271-3

Sexual selection theory posits that females should choose mates in a way that maximizes their reproductive success. But what exactly is the optimal choice? Most empirical research is based on the assumption that females seek a male of the highest possible quality (in terms of the genes or resources he can provide), and hence show directional preferences for indicators of male quality. This implies that attractiveness and quality should be highly correlated. However, females frequently differ in what they find attractive. New theoretical and empirical insights provide mounting evidence that a female's own quality biases her judgement of male attractiveness, such that male quality and attractiveness do not always coincide. A recent experiment in songbirds demonstrated for the first time that manipulation of female condition can lead to divergent female preferences, with low-quality females actively preferring low-quality males over high-quality males. This result is in line with theory on state-dependent mate choice and is reminiscent of assortative mating preferences in humans. Here we discuss the implications of this work for the study of mate preferences.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2918774PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cib.3.3.11557DOI Listing
May 2010

Low-quality females prefer low-quality males when choosing a mate.

Proc Biol Sci 2010 Jan 7;277(1678):153-60. Epub 2009 Oct 7.

Behavioural Biology, Institute of Biology, Leiden University, PO Box 9516, 2300 Leiden, The Netherlands.

Mate choice studies routinely assume female preferences for indicators of high quality in males but rarely consider developmental causes of within-population variation in mating preferences. By contrast, recent mate choice models assume that costs and benefits of searching or competing for high-quality males depend on females' phenotypic quality. A prediction following from these models is that manipulation of female quality should alter her choosiness or even the direction of her mating preferences. We here provide (to our knowledge) the first example where an experimental manipulation of female quality induced a mating preference for low-quality males. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) reared in small or large experimental broods became high- or low-quality adults, respectively. Only high-quality females preferred high-quality males' mate-advertising songs, while all low-quality females preferred low-quality males' song. Subsequent breeding trials confirmed this pattern: latency until egg laying was shortest in quality-matched pairs, indicating that quality-matched birds were accepted faster as partners. Females produced larger eggs when mated with high-quality males, regardless of their own quality, indicating consensus regarding male quality despite the expression of different choices. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering the development of mating preferences to understand their within-population variation and environmentally induced change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.1222DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842619PMC
January 2010

Long-term effects of manipulated natal brood size on metabolic rate in zebra finches.

Biol Lett 2006 Sep;2(3):478-80

Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750AA Haren, The Netherlands.

Long-term effects of developmental conditions on health, longevity and other fitness components in humans are drawing increasing attention. In evolutionary ecology, such effects are of similar importance because of their role in the trade-off between quantity and quality of offspring. The central role of energy consumption is well documented for some long-term health effects in humans (e.g. obesity), but little is known of the long-term effects of rearing conditions on energy requirements later in life. We manipulated the rearing conditions in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) using brood size manipulation and cross-fostering. It has previously been shown in this species that being reared in a large brood has negative fitness consequences, and that such effects are stronger in daughters than in sons. We show that, independent of mass, standard metabolic rate of 1-year-old birds was higher when they had been reared in a large brood, and this is to our knowledge the first demonstration of such an effect. Furthermore, the brood size effect was stronger in daughters than in sons. This suggests that metabolic efficiency may play a role in mediating the long-term fitness consequences of rearing conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2006.0496DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1686193PMC
September 2006

Early condition, song learning, and the volume of song brain nuclei in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).

J Neurobiol 2006 Dec;66(14):1602-12

Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain.

Songbirds are an important model system for the study of the neurological bases of song learning, but variation in song learning accuracy and adult song complexity remains poorly understood. Current models of sexual selection predict that signals such as song must be costly to develop or maintain to constitute honest indicators of male quality. It has been proposed that reductions of nestling condition during song development might limit the expression of song learning. Adult song could thus act as an indicator of early stress as only males that enjoy good condition during development could learn accurately and sing long songs or large repertoires. We tested this hypothesis in the zebra finch by modifying early condition through cross-fostering chicks to small, medium, and large broods. Song learning was very accurate and was found to reflect very closely tutor song characteristics and to depend on the number of males in the tutoring group. Although the brood size manipulation strongly affected several measures of nestling condition and adult biometry, we found no relationship between early condition and song learning scores or song characteristics. Similarly, brain mass and high vocal center (HVC), robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA), and lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium (LMAN) volumes did not covary with nestling condition and growth measurements. We found no significant relationship between song repertoire size and HVC and RA volumes, although there was a nonsignificant trend for HVC to increase with increasing proportion of learnt elements in a song. In conclusion, the results provide no evidence for song learning to be limited by nestling condition during the period of nutritional dependence from the parents in this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/neu.20312DOI Listing
December 2006

Localized brain activation specific to auditory memory in a female songbird.

J Comp Neurol 2006 Feb;494(5):784-91

Behavioural Biology, Institute of Biology Leiden, Leiden University, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.

Song acquisition in songbird males is a prominent model system for the study of the brain mechanisms of memory. Male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) learn their songs from an adult conspecific tutor early in life. Previous work has shown that exposure of males to their tutor song leads to increased expression of immediate early genes (IEGs) in the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM) and in the caudomedial mesopallium (CMM). In addition, IEG expression in the NCM correlates significantly with the strength of song learning. Interpretation of these findings is complicated, as males both learn the characteristics of tutor song and learn to produce a similar own song. Female zebra finches do not sing, but nevertheless they learn the characteristics of a song to which they were exposed when young, and form a preference for it. Here, adult zebra finch females reared with their fathers showed a significant preference for their father's song. Females that were later reexposed to their father's song showed significantly greater expression of Zenk, the protein product of the IEG ZENK, than controls that were exposed to a novel song, in the CMM, but not in the NCM or hippocampus. These results suggest that in female zebra finches the CMM may be (part of) the neural substrate for the representation of the memory of their father's song.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cne.20831DOI Listing
February 2006

Nestling immunocompetence and testosterone covary with brood size in a songbird.

Proc Biol Sci 2004 Apr;271(1541):833-8

Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Bielefeld, PO Box 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany.

The social and ecological conditions that individuals experience during early development have marked effects on their developmental trajectory. In songbirds, brood size is a key environmental factor affecting development, and experimental increases in brood size have been shown to have negative effects on growth, condition and fitness. Possible causes of decreased growth in chicks from enlarged broods are nutritional stress, crowding and increased social competition, i.e. environmental factors known to affect adult steroid levels (especially of testosterone and corticosteroids) in mammals and birds. Little, however, is known about environmental effects on steroid synthesis in nestlings. We addressed this question by following the development of zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) chicks that were cross-fostered and raised in different brood sizes. In line with previous findings, nestling growth and cell-mediated immunocompetence were negatively affected by brood size. Moreover, nestling testosterone levels covaried with treatment: plasma testosterone increased with experimental brood size. This result provides experimental evidence that levels of circulating testosterone in nestlings can be influenced by their physiological response to environmental conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2003.2673DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691669PMC
April 2004

Does zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) preference for the (familiar) father's song generalize to the songs of unfamiliar brothers?

J Comp Psychol 2003 Mar;117(1):61-6

Behavioural Biology, Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Several studies have demonstrated that zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) prefer their fathers' songs over unfamiliar songs. Songs of tutors (i.e., fathers) and tutees (i.e., sons) resemble each other as a result of cultural transmission. Subjects (N = 18) with a previously established preference for the father's song could choose between the song of an unfamiliar brother or a random unfamiliar song in an operant task. Most subjects showed a significant preference for either category of song, but overall, the songs of unfamiliar brothers were not preferred, although they were more similar to the father's song than were the unfamiliar songs. This suggests that subjects did not generalize their learned preference for a song of a particular tutor to the songs of his tutees.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7036.117.1.61DOI Listing
March 2003

Sexual equality in zebra finch song preference: evidence for a dissociation between song recognition and production learning.

Proc Biol Sci 2002 Apr;269(1492):729-33

Behavioural Biology Section, Institute of Evolutionary & Ecological Sciences, Leiden University, PO Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.

Song in oscine birds is a culturally inherited mating signal and sexually dimorphic. From differences in song production learning, sex differences in song recognition learning have been inferred but rarely put to a stringent test. In zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, females never sing and the species has one of the greatest neuroanatomical differences in song-related brain nuclei reported for songbirds. Preference tests with sibling groups for which exposure to song had been identical during the sensitive phase for song learning in males, revealed equally strong influence of the tutor's song (here the father) on males' and females' adult song preferences. Both sexes significantly preferred the father's over unfamiliar song when having free control over exposure to playbacks via an operant task. The sibling comparisons suggest that this preference developed independently of the song's absolute quality: variation between siblings was as great as between nests. The results show that early exposure has an equally strong influence on males' and females' song preferences despite the sexual asymmetry in song production learning. This suggests that the trajectory for song recognition learning is independent of the one for song production learning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2001.1930DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1690953PMC
April 2002
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