The question 'How do songbirds sing?' is addressed in a study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Biology. High-field magnetic resonance imaging and micro-computed tomography have been used to construct stunning high resolution, 3D, images, as well as a data set "morphome" of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) vocal organ, the syrinx.
Like humans, songbirds learn their vocalizations by imitation. Since their songs are used for finding a mate and retaining territories, birdsong is very important for reproductive success.
The syrinx, located at the point where the trachea splits in two to send air to the lungs, is unique to birds and performs the same function as vocal cords in humans. Birds can have such a complete control over the syrinx, with sub-millisecond precision, that in some cases they are even able to mimic human speech.
Despite great inroads in uncovering the neural control of birdsong, the anatomy of the complex physical structures that generate sound have been less well understood.
The multinational team has generated interactive 3D PDF models of the syringeal skeleton, soft tissues, cartilaginous pads, and muscles affecting sound production. These models show in detail the delicate balance between strength, and lightness of bones and cartilage required to support and alter the vibrating membranes of the syrinx at superfast speeds.
Dr Coen Elemans, from the University of Southern Denmark, who led this study, explained, "This study provides the basis to analyze the micromechanics, and exact neural and muscular control of the syrinx. For example, we describe a cartilaginous structure which may allow the zebra finch to precisely control its songs by uncoupling sound frequency and volume." In addition, the researchers found a previously unrecognized Y-shaped structure on the sternum which corresponds to the shape of the syrinx and could help stabilize sound production.
BioMed Central: http://www.biomedcentral.com
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A newly discovered variant of a protein that helps protect us against cancer may trigger cancer and promote its spread around the body
A special retelling of The Tempest shows how people with autism may be able to tap into the rhythmic heart of Shakespeare's plays
Babies in the womb show evidence of learning by their 34th week, three weeks earlier than previously thought, new research has found.
New findings about the origins of a centuries-old wooden ship discovered near the site where the Twin Towers once stood
You use a whole lot more than 10% of your brain—but a common fallacy that says otherwise is nonetheless the central premise of a new movie
The string of genes that make a man a man used to be much bigger, and some geneticists say it may be wasting away. Back off, others say. Y has been stable — and crucial — for millennia.
Check out these colorful images of crystallized alcoholic beverages
Large stretches may be no more than biological baggage, say researchers after comparing genome with that of other mammals
Specially designed mobile games can help scientists answer important questions about cognition, a team finds.
Tinnitus is a chronic ringing in the ears that can be debilitating. Now, an implant that stimulates a nerve in the neck could eliminate the sounds for good