Tag Archives: Songbirds

Rockefeller’s newest faculty member studies birdsong to illuminate the origins of human language

Rockefeller’s newest faculty member studies bird song to illuminate the origins of human languageErich Jarvis, currently a professor at Duke University, uses songbirds as a model to study the mechanisms that underlie how individuals learn spoken language. He will be joining Rockefeller as a professor this fall. More »

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Transgenic songbirds provide new tool to understand the brain

Over the decades, scientists have learned a lot about the basic life processes shared by many animals — including people — by manipulating the DNA of the “lower” species, such as mice and worms. But to date, they have been unable to readily probe the genetic contribution to one higher cognitive capacity of particular interest — the ability to learn language from one another. Now scientists have worked out a method for altering the genes of the zebra finch, one of the handful of social animals that learn to “speak” in a way that is analogous to humans. More »

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Songbirds’ elaborate cries for food show first signs of vocal learning

How a handful of social animals ever learned to actively style their vocal communication is a question that has dogged biologists for generations. New research in chipping sparrows suggests that the talent originally appeared in these songbirds as a competition for food among siblings and later evolved into vocal imitation used in territorial defense and courtship. More »

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For young canaries learning their song, freedom in youth gives way to rules in adulthood

Young canaries can learn atypical songs but recast them into adult canary syntax as they mature, a previously undescribed aspect of vocal prowess in birds. More »

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Many ways to learn one song

Of all the world’s animals, only humans, some kinds of birds and perhaps some porpoises and whales learn the sounds they use to communicate with each other through a process of listening, imitation and practice. For the rest, including nonhuman primates, these sounds develop normally in the absence of external models. Now Rockefeller University scientists have found that zebra finches, songbirds native to Australia, use infant-like strategies to learn their song.
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