DOI: 10.1126/science.adh4129 ISSN: 0036-8075

Culturally determined interspecies communication between humans and honeyguides

Claire N. Spottiswoode, Brian M. Wood
  • Multidisciplinary

Species interactions that vary across environments can create geographical mosaics of genetic coevolution. However, traits mediating species interactions are sometimes culturally inherited. Here we show that traditions of interspecies communication between people and wild birds vary in a culturally determined geographical mosaic. Honey hunters in different parts of Africa use different calls to communicate with greater honeyguides ( Indicator indicator ) that lead them to bees’ nests. We show experimentally that honeyguides in Tanzania and Mozambique discriminate among honey hunters’ calls, responding more readily to local than to foreign calls. This was not explained by variation in sound transmission and instead suggests that honeyguides learn local human signals. We discuss the forces stabilizing and diversifying interspecies communication traditions, and the potential for cultural coevolution between species.

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