Project: Individual- and population-level variation in songs of the White-bellied Sholakili (Sholicola albiventris)
Description: The White-bellied sholakili is a highly vocal bird often found in the understory of the Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats. The uniqueness of this bird's vocalisation lies in the high degree of variability in their song at the individual as well as population level. Through this project, we seek to find answers at both these levels:
At the individual level, we first look at ways to quantify song complexity levels. We generated a new metric - the Note Variability Index (NVI) - that captures intra-song note-level spectro-temporal variation using spectrogram cross-correlation and generates a complexity score. We tested this metric across birds worldwide with songs of varying complexity. This work can be accessed at Sawant et al.,(2022)
The sholakili is believed to have several hundred types of notes, all shared between members of a population (Suyash Sawant Masters thesis). We currently have a population that has been monitored since 2019 for songs. We examine intra-individual song variability across years and the degree of song sharing between neighbouring individuals across years. Another question we are exploring is whether such a highly complex song is an indicator of male quality or the fitness of an individual.
Within a population, we derive sholakili population-level song signatures across its distribution gradient. We then look at the cultural dialects in songs across relatively isolated populations in conjunction with genetic connectivity derived from Next Generation Sequencing data. We further explore how landscape and environmental configurations in the landscape lead to a relationship between the cultural transmission of songs and genetic connectivity across populations.
Study site: The Shola Sky Islands in the Western Ghats, >1400m ASL in the Anamalai - Palani plateau.
Fundings: Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB)
Prof. Indranil Dutta - Jadavpur University