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Data from: Acoustic adaptation to city noise through vocal learning by a songbird

Cite this dataset

Moseley, Dana Lynn et al. (2018). Data from: Acoustic adaptation to city noise through vocal learning by a songbird [Dataset]. Dryad.


Anthropogenic noise imposes novel selection pressures, especially on species that communicate acoustically. Many animals – including insects, frogs, whales, and birds – produce sounds at higher frequencies in areas with low-frequency noise pollution. Although there is support for animals changing their vocalizations in real time in response to noise (i.e., immediate flexibility), other evolutionary mechanisms for animals that learn their vocalizations remain largely unexplored. We hypothesize that cultural selection for signal structures less masked by noise is a mechanism of acoustic adaptation to anthropogenic noise. We test this hypothesis by presenting nestling white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophyrs) less-masked (higher frequency) and more masked (lower frequency) tutor songs either during playback of anthropogenic noise (noise-tutored treatment) or at a different time from noise playback (control treatment). As predicted, we find that noise-tutored males learn less-masked songs significantly more often, whereas control males show no copying preference, providing strong experimental support for cultural selection in response to anthropogenic noise. Further, noise-tutored males reproduce songs at higher frequencies than their tutor, indicating a distinct mechanism to increase signal transmission in a noisy environment. Notably, noise-tutored males achieve lower performance songs than their tutors, suggesting potential costs in a sexual selection framework.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1354756 and IOS-1354763


North America