Menu

Birds Possess an Innate Vocal Signature Based on Silent Gaps

 Zebra finches reared by another species learn to sing their foster parents’ song with rhythms characteristic of their genetic background.

Mar 1, 2017
Diana Kwon

VOCAL COACH: A zebra finch (left) learned to sing from its foster parent, a Bengalese finch (right). OKINAWA INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

EDITOR’S CHOICE IN NEUROSCIENCE

The paper
M. Araki et al., “Mind the gap: Neural coding of species identity in birdsong prosody,” Science, 354:1282-87, 2016.

Vocal signatures
Bird songs contain scads of information, including a bird’s species identity and reproductive potential. According to Yoko Yazaki-Sugiyama of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, there are two competing elements within an individual bird’s song: the characteristics common to all members of their species, and distinct elements that each male bird develops.

Foster parents
How zebra finches retain species identity within their unique songs was not clear, so to find out, Yazaki-Sugiyama and her team placed baby zebra finches with Bengalese finch parents. Although the young zebra finches adopted the syllables of their foster parents’ songs, their tunes maintained their own species-specific rhythm, the researchers found, coded as silent gaps between sounds. Yet the birds had never heard their conspecifics sing.

Neural barcodes
To uncover the neural origins of this innate “accent,” the team recorded neurons from the auditory cortices of birds listening to birdsongs from both their own and other species and found two different populations of neurons—one activated during the learned syllables and the other during the silent gaps. “Having the two independent systems is a big benefit for overcoming two competing criteria,” says Yazaki-Sugiyama.

Nature and nurture
“This discovery is nice because it shows that the temporal pattern is innate and the aspects that are linked to the morphology of syllables can be influenced by the social environment,” says Sébastien Derégnaucourt of University Paris West in France who was not involved in the study. From an evolutionary perspective, Derégnaucourt adds, while species-specific sounds may help birds find mates, learned behavior may help them develop differences between populations that eventually lead to new species.

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.