Developmental stress and birdsong: integrating signal function and development
Current Opinion in behavioral Sciences
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The developmental stress hypothesis proposes that birdsong reflects developmental experience and thus correlates with other traits. There is evidence that developmental stressors impair song development in wild songbirds with sexually selected songs, but the evidence from domesticated species is mixed. Studies vary in emphasizing ecological validity or experimental control, which may contribute to mixed results. Although phenotypic programming is a dominant concept in developmental phenotypic plasticity, birdsong appears to develop as a result of tradeoffs rather than phenotype matching. Further work needs to more explicitly address trade-offs by quantifying which traits are traded-off with song during development. A better understanding of physiological mechanisms of these processes is also needed to elucidate how song may indicate other aspects of a bird's phenotype.