Explaining Science – Gene flow among song dialects

Today Kandace Glanville, an OSU Forestry Fisheries & Wildlife major and student assistant in the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, talks with Angelika Nelson, Curator of the Borror Lab, about a recent research publication in the journal Ethology. The study is entitled “High levels of gene flow among song dialect populations of the Puget Sound white-crowned sparrow”.

Find out why we studied the White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys pugetensis to investigate gene flow among song dialects:

The research aimed to investigate a correlation between behavioral and genetic differentiation:

Our research built on knowledge from previous studies and used samples that were collected previously:

We found gene flow among bird populations that differ in song dialects; this may demonstrate dispersal of young birds across dialect borders:

Our findings are consistent with most studies to date of song and population structure within songbirds. The processes of song learning and dispersal mean that vocalizations are free to vary independently of patterns of divergence in neutral genetic markers.

Poesel, Angelika, Anthony C. Fries, Lisa Miller, H. Lisle Gibbs, Jill A. Soha, and Douglas A. Nelson. “High levels of gene flow among song dialect populations of the Puget Sound white‐crowned sparrow.” Ethology 123, no. 9 (2017): 581-592.


About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and the social media manager for the Museum of Biodiversity.

4 thoughts on “Explaining Science – Gene flow among song dialects

  1. This is a really interesting study. I love the “blog” version interview format. A similar conclusion is reached in a recent review of song learning and geographic variation in parrots which, like songbirds, learn their songs. The study by Timothy Wright & Christine Dahlin published in Emu – Austral Ornithology this year concludes that there isn’t much evidence to link vocal dialects in populations of parrots to genetic differentiation among them.

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