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The mechanisms and function of social recognition in the cooperatively breeding Southern pied babbler, Turdoides bicolor

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posted on 28.03.2022, 19:58 by David John Humphries
For group-living species, where the same individuals interact repeatedly, recognising conspecifics and remembering the outcomes of previous encounters may be critical to regulating group dynamics. In all social species, recognition potentially affects individual decisions about mate choice, dispersal, and inter and intra-group interactions. Recognition may be even more important in cooperative species, where cooperation is often predicated on the ability to detect kin, and where stable cooperation may require the capacity to monitor contributions by collaborators. However, we currently know very little about how cooperative species perceive their social environment. Thus, studies of social recognition are of extreme relevance for understanding how cooperation is maintained. Understanding the mechanisms of social recognition, its development, and its limitations facilitates our understanding of the social interactions we observe within populations, and the life history strategies we see. In this thesis I investigate the occurrence, mechanism, and function of social recognition in the highly cooperative Southern pied babbler, Turdoides bicolor. I show that: a) individuals use vocalisations to signal their identity, b)these signals are perceived and discriminated by receivers, both at the level of individual and kin and c) kin are recognised through prior association, but fail to discriminate after years of separation. Finally, I demonstrate the importance of recognition on social behaviour by revealing the influence it has on territorial defence and subordinate dispersal strategies. These findings represent a comprehensive example of the occurrence, development and mechanisms of social recognition, and demonstrate its use and limitations in mediating social interactions.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. General methods -- 3. Vocal cues to identity: pied babblers produce individually distinct but not stable loud calls -- 4. Group and identity signatures within pied babbler contact calls -- 5. Individual recognition in the cooperatively breeding Southern pied babbler -- 6. Testing for vocal kin recognition in the cooperatively breeding Southern pied babbler -- 7. The ontogeny of vocal recognition in the Southern pied babbler -- 8. Limits to long-term recognition in the Southern pied babbler -- 9. Kinship and costly combat: the effects of relatedness on inter-group aggression in a cooperative breeder -- 10. Calling where it counts: subordinate pied babblers target the audience of their vocal advertisements -- 11. General discussion -- References -- Appendix


A dissertation submitted to Macquarie University in application for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" "June 2013 Bibliography: pages 216-225

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Amanda Ridley

Additional Supervisor 1

Simon Griffith

Additional Supervisor 2

Matt Bell


Copyright David John Humphries 2013. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright




1 online resource (xiv, 226 pages) illustrations (many colour), maps

Former Identifiers

mq:71885 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1279140 2120156 | (AuNrM)2120156-macqdb-Voyager