Marcelo Araya-Salas


Research interests: I am primarily interested in understanding the evolution of learned behaviors, both from a cultural transmission and phylogenetic perspective. Transmission through learning could erode similarities between closely related species faster than genetic transmission. On the other hand, factors such as anatomy and habitat structure can work in the opposite direction, constraining divergence. So this interplay creates an interesting evolutionary scenario that we are just starting to unveil. I am currently working on evaluating the social and life history traits that influence the cultural evolution of songs in long-billed hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornis longirostris). This species presents an uncommon level of cultural diversity and a fast turnover rate of cultural traits, so it is ideal model to document  signal diversification derived from cultural processes. The next step would be to evaluate if the parameters affected by cultural transmission are also the ones driving the song evolution in the whole genus using comparative methods.


Medina‐García, Angela, M. Araya‐Salas, and T. Wright. 2015. Does vocal learning accelerate acoustic diversification? Evolution of contact calls in Neotropical parrots. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12694 PDF

González-Gómez P., P. Razeto-Barry, M. Araya-Salas and C. F. Estades. 2015. Does Environmental Heterogeneity Promote Cognitive Abilities?. Integrative and Comparative Biology. doi:10.1093/icb/icv062 PDF

Araya-Salas, M., G. Smith and  H. Zhong. 2015. warbleR: an R package to streamline bioacoustic analysis. url:

Rico-Guevara, A., and M. Araya-Salas. 2014. Bills as daggers? A test for sexually dimorphic weapons in a lekking hummingbird species. Behavioral Ecology. doi:10.1093/beheco/aru182 *Both authors contributed equally PDF

Rodríguez R. L, M. Araya-Salas, David A. Gray, M. Reichert, L. Symes, M. Wilkins, R. Safran and G. Höbe. 2014. Static allometry of acoustic sexual signal. Behavioral Ecology. doi: 10.1093/beheco/aru174 PDF

Araya-Salas, M. and T. Wright. 2013. Open-ended song learning in a hummingbird. Biology Letters. 9 (5). doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0625 (Featured,National Geographic) PDF

Araya-Salas, M. and G. Barrantes. 2013. Variación geográfica y posibles mecanismos de evolución cultural en Microcerculus philomela. Zeledonia. 17(1):24-34 PDF

Arévalo, J.E. and M. Araya-Salas. 2013. Collared Forest-Falcon preying on Chestnut-mandibled Toucan in Costa Rica. Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 125(1):212-216. doi: PDF

Araya-Salas, M. 2012. Is bird-song music? Significance Magazine. 9: 4-7. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00613.x PDF

Araya-Salas, M. 2012. Is bird song music? Evaluating harmonic intervals in songs of a Neotropical songbird. Animal Behaviour. 84: 309-313. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.04.038 (Featured in: Animal Behaviour, La Nacion, ScienceNow) PDF