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Data from: Communication value of mistakes in dark-eyed junco song

Cite this dataset

Ferreira, André C et al. (2016). Data from: Communication value of mistakes in dark-eyed junco song [Dataset]. Dryad.


Sexual signals contain information on individual quality or motivation, and most explanations for their reliability are based on signal costs. A recent suggestion is that signaling mistakes, defined as deviations from typical signal design, provide cues on individual quality, contributing to reliable communication even when signal design is not costly. We describe several atypical song traits in dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) that may be mistakes during song production or development and occur in up to 6% of songs. These putative mistakes were more frequent in an urban versus a wildland population, and individuals differed in their frequency of mistakes. Some atypical signals were more frequent in younger males or were negatively related to paternity success, supporting the hypothesis that fewer mistakes indicate individual quality. We also discuss unexpected results, such as some atypical signals being more frequent in more ornamented males and in songs with lower performance demands. Song consistency (similarity across syllable renditions) was positively related to male age and paternity success; nonetheless, relations with paternity were stronger when looking at the most deviant syllable renditions, suggesting that the perceptual salience of large mistakes may mediate receiver responses to song consistency. Results indicate that signaling mistakes reveal relevant information to play a role in communication.

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