Price, J. J.   1999.   Recognition of family-specific calls in stripe-backedwrens.   Animal Behaviour 57:   483-492.


Males of the cooperatively breeding stripe-backed wren, Campylorhynchus nuchalis, learn repertoires of stereotyped calls (termed WAY calls) from older male relatives. As a result, these vocalizations are normally specific to patrilineal family groups but are sometimes shared by male relatives in different groups.

To determine whether or not this species can recognize the calls of different family groups, I performed playback experiments with individual call types recorded from males of known social and genealogical relationships.

Subjects discriminated between the calls of unrelated neighbouring groups and unfamiliar groups, and they discriminated both of these from calls of their own groups.

However, subjects failed to distinguish calls of males in other groups from calls of the own groups when these males were members of the same patriline.

These results indicate that stripe-backed wrens can discriminate between repertoires of these calls that match or differ from their own. Consequently, they can recognize members of their patriline, not just members of their immediate group.

These vocalizations probably provide a useful mechanism for recognizing group membership in this species and might also provide a mechanism for recognizing unfamiliar relatives in other groups.