The first genome sequence of a songbird, published in Nature this week, has provided scientists with the tools to begin studying the molecular underpinnings of vocal learning -- an ability present in just a few other animals, including whales, bats and humans.
"This is a really important step forward for our field," said linkurl:Allison Doupe,;http://keck.ucsf.edu/neurograd/faculty/doupe.html a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies bird song and was not involved in the research. "We don't have many models for one of our most amazing capabilities -- humans' ability to learn to speak." Zebra finches, one of more than 4000 species of songbirds, learn their song from their male parents, reproducing it with slight variation and passing it down to their own...
and-white stripes on the male finch's throat
Image: L. Brian Stauffer, U. of Illinois News Bureau
Download Flash player to listen to University of Illinois cell & developmental biology professor David Clayton compare the songs of two zebra finches. Each individual sings a unique song.
University of Illinois cell & developmental biology professor David Clayton compares the songs of two zebra finches. Each individual sings a unique song.
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