Development of Signaler and Receiver Phenotypes

Grants and Contracts Details


Most organisms have attributes used to communicate with others. Such sig als affect social interactions in a variety of contexts, but the natural forces shaping th use of signals remain under debate. Many aspects of communication could be bet r understood if more was known about the developmental processes by whi the signal becomes useful or how the observer of the signal develops their response. for signals, the developmental process could either depend on resources or be socially influenced. This project will test these two mechanisms of development in a bird, the h use sparrow, which has a conspicuous signal of competitive ability. The possibility that pi mage signals are sensitive to resources will be tested by systematically manipula ng diet during molt. Components of the diet, such as particular amino acids or nutri nts, will be adjusted independently of each other. A second hypothesis, that social exp rience of particular types and with partners of particular characteristics influence the evelopment of the signal, will also be tested. In addition, variation in responses to the si nals of others will be measured. The developmental processes that could influence such variation will be investigated by manipulating early social experience and m asuring its effects on later responses to the plumage of novel opponents. The results ill be important at several levels. First, they will constitute one of the more thorou h studies of the possible condition-dependence of a plumage signal, will be the first to t 8t directly that social experience influences the development of signals, and will asses the novel idea that receiver responses could also be sensitive to social experience. T e study will integrate functional and developmental approaches in an attempt to devise more complete ecological theory of communication and to expand understanding f how phenotypic variation can arise. The proposed activities also have broader impact. The project will advance iscovery by integrating across levels of biological organization in ways that have potenti I effects on several related fields of biology. It will also stimulate a broad program of res arch training. It will directly support a post-doctoral scholar and at least one grad ate student. The proposed activities will also be integrated into broader programs fosteri Ig collaborations with faculty and students at primarily undergraduate institutio IS(e.g., through the KyNSF-EPSCoR and KyNIH-BRIN programs). Other students ( t the graduate, undergraduate, and high school level) will benefit from the resear h opportunities created by this project. These students will acquire training in II stages of doing research, from devising ideas, collecting and analyzing data, and pres nting the results to a wider audience. The project activities will also contribute to labs ssociated with regular undergraduate courses in the curriculum and provide material f r lectures in mid-level classes illustrating the processes involved in behavioral research. I formation generated by the project will be disseminated in traditional ways Oournal arti les, attendance at meetings by all participants), via the web, and through contact in local schools and organizations. In this way the new knowledge and the training 0 portunities stimulated by the project will have the widest possible impact.
Effective start/end date8/15/067/31/10


  • National Science Foundation: $296,901.00


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