How king penguins advertise their sexual maturity

Type Article
Date 2021-07
Language English
Author(s) Kriesell Hannah JoyORCID1, 2, 3, Aubin Thierry4, Planas-Bielsa VíctorORCID1, Schull Quentin5, Bonadonna Francesco6, Cornec ClémentORCID4, 7, Le Maho Yvon1, 2, Troudet Laura2, Le Bohec Céline1, 2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Centre Scientifique de Monaco, Département de Biologie Polaire, MC, Monaco
2 : Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC UMR 7178, Strasbourg, France
3 : Department of Electronic Systems, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
4 : Institut des Neurosciences Paris-Saclay (Neuro-PSI), CNRS UMR 9197, Université Paris-Saclay, Paris, France
5 : MARBEC, Univ. Montpellier, IFREMER, IRD, CNRS, Sète, France
6 : CEFE, Université Montpellier, CNRS, EPHE, IRD, Montpellier, France
7 : Equipe de Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle ENES/CRNL, University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne, CNRS UMR5292, INSERM UMR_S1028, Saint-Etienne, France
Source Animal Behaviour (0003-3472) (Elsevier BV), 2021-07 , Vol. 177 , P. 253-267
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.05.015
WOS© Times Cited 2
Keyword(s) animal communication, mate choice, optimal response index, ornamentation, penguin, sexual maturation, vocalization

Reproductive success can improve with experience, which increases with age in many long-lived species. Signals that provide reliable information about age are therefore of importance for mate choice and consequently are under sexual selection. In birds, these are often vocal signals as well as visual signals in the form of plumage coloration. King penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus, are sexually monomorphically ornamented seabirds that perform a complex visual and acoustic courtship display. Coloured beak spots and ear patches contain information about the condition and physiological status of adult males and females, but their role as a signal of age has previously only been studied in young birds. Vocalizations have mainly been studied as signals of individuality and not in the context of courtship. We investigated two multicomponent signals in the context of mate choice by analysing beak spot, ear patch and call parameters of wild king penguins. We explored the relation between these signals and age as well as age classes (chicks, juveniles, adults). Ornament parameters were weakly correlated with in males, but not in females, while acoustic parameters were highly correlated with age in both sexes. The calls' fundamental frequency and energy parameters and all the beak spot parameters reliably classified individuals into their age class. Since age class was redundantly encoded in both acoustic and colour parameters, we hypothesize that calls and ornaments function as back-up signals that increase the chance of accurately conveying the age class of the sender to receivers. King penguins might sequentially analyse age class signals during courtship, where acoustic signals serve as long-range communication when sender and receiver are out of sight, and ornamentation signals become important at close range. We show the importance of considering bimodal, multicomponent signals when studying complex behaviour and discuss how signalling environment, the species’ life history and mating system influence the evolution of communication signals.

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Publisher's official version 15 1 MB Open access
figs1. 556 KB Open access
Audio file S1. Acoustic recording of an adult male king penguin call and an adult female king penguin call, both lasting for 2.9 s (downsampled from 44.1 kHz to 22.05 kHz, high-pass... 139 KB Open access
Figure A1. The lengths of (a) the flipper and (b) the beak were used in a principal component analysis to calculate a structural size index (SSI). (c) Apical distance was measured as the smallest ... 93 KB Open access
Figure A2. Classification tree of acoustic parameters for age classes (C = chicks, J = juveniles, a = Adults) for (a) male and (b) female king penguins. The algorithm selected four variables per sex.. 123 KB Open access
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