Advertising displays of male Musk Ducks indicate population subdivision across the Nullarbor Plain of Australia

K. G. McCracken, P. J. Fullagar, E. C. Slater, D. C. Paton, A. D. Afton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Acoustic advertising displays (n=75) of male Musk Ducks Biziura lobata were analysed at ten widely spaced geographic localities in South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia. Vocalisations differed in a fixed, non-overlapping pattern between allopatric Musk Duck populations in southeastern and southwestern Australia. These findings suggest that Musk Duck populations are subdivided by the Nullarbor Plain, the arid treeless desert at the head of the Great Australian Bight. Three vocalisations performed by male Musk Ducks not previously reported in the literature were documented also. Vocalisations of captive Musk Ducks collected from different geographic regions (southeast and southwest) differed between regions from which captives originally were collected and were unlike those performed by wild birds. Based on calls of immature Musk Ducks, acoustic variation within regional populations and the apparent inability of captive Musk Ducks reared in isolation to develop the wild type adult call, regional dialects seemingly are acquired in a social context by repeated observance of adult males and some combination of social imprinting, learning, or practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-154
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Biogeography
  • Biziura lobata
  • Musk Duck
  • Nullarbor Plain
  • Population subdivision
  • Vocalisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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