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Territorial vocalization in sympatric damselfish: acoustic characteristics and intruder discrimination

Sonia R. Weimann, Andrew N. Black, Joseph Leese, Martin L. Richter, Murray Itzkowitz & R. Michael Burger (2018). Territorial vocalization in sympatric damselfish: acoustic characteristics and intruder discrimination. Bioacoustics, Volume 27 (1): 87 -102



Damselfishes are well known for their aggressive, territorial behaviour during which the use of vocalization behaviour has been well documented. However, agonistic acoustic signalling has been understudied in particular when the vocalizations are interspecific. In this study, we characterize and compare the previously undescribed vocalization behaviour of longfin damselfish (Stegastes diencaeus), in an agonistic context, with the closely related and sympatric dusky damselfish (Stegastes adustus). Next, we examined if these congeneric species modulate their vocalizations in a similar pattern to previously described aggressive behaviour patterns. Audio field recordings of territorial males were obtained in response to three separate stimuli: (1) conspecific male damselfish, (2) heterospecific male damselfish and (3) a common intruder, the slippery dick wrasse (Halichoeres bivittatus). The vocal repertoires of both longfin and dusky damselfish comprised the same three distinct call types: chirps, pops and pulse trains. However, temporal measures of the calls showed significant differences between species. Additionally, dusky damselfish were more vocal overall, producing more calls and spending more time calling than longfin damselfish. These responses were stimulus and species dependent, as the two species modulated acoustic response by modulating pulse number based on intruder species. These results suggest that these closely related species of damselfish use vocalization behaviours that are both unique and context dependent.


Acoustic signalling, bioacoustics, damselfish, Stegastes, territoriality, vocalization