Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Curtain twitching' skylarks keep track of strangers through their songs

31.08.2009
Skylarks can hear the difference between friendly neighbours and dangerous strangers, and deal with any threatening intruders, says new research by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

Male skylarks learn to recognise local dialects in their neighbours' individual songs, remember where each neighbour is supposed to be and reprimand intruders who don't belong in the neighbourhood, according to a study carried out by Dr Elodie Briefer, a postdoctoral researcher at Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

Published in the Springer journal Naturwissenschaften this week, Dr Briefer and her colleagues at the University of Paris South found that skylark neighbours are tolerated if they stay in their own territory, whereas strangers - skylarks who belong to another neighbourhood - are attacked if they intrude too close to the nest.

Researchers also observed the birds' reactions when they heard the recorded song of another skylark from different directions. The results of the study showed how neighbouring birds who travel too far from their regular territory - a move which is seen as threatening - also run the risk of being attacked.

Males skylarks fiercely guard their chosen home territory, the area of land where they make their nest and hunt for food. The size and position of the male's territory is also important as female birds check it out before deciding who is going to make the best father to her chicks. Each skylark will usually have several neighbours, living in territories that border his own.

Bird songs are among the most complex sounds produced by animals and the skylark (Alauda arvensis) is one of the most complex of all. The songs are composed of 'syllables', consecutive sounds produced in a complex way, with almost no repetition. The male skylark can sing more than 300 different syllables, and each individual bird's song is slightly different.

Dr Briefer's research found that the songs of neighbouring skylarks share more syllables with each other than they do with strangers, like a dialect. She says: "This may have evolved because it is safer for the birds to live close together, but they need a way to keep intruders out. By sharing a local dialect in their song, they can keep an ear out for other birds that live nearby and kick any strangers out of the neighbourhood."

Journal Reference:
Response to displaced neighbours in a territorial songbird with a large repertoire, Naturwissenschaften: Volume 96, Issue 9 (2009), Page 1067

Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature - is Springer’s flagship multidisciplinary science journal covering all aspect of the natural sciences. The journal is dedicated to the fast publication of high-quality research covering the whole range of the biological, chemical, geological, and physical sciences.

For further information, please contact:

Simon Levey
Communications Officer (Science & Engineering)
Queen Mary, University of London
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7882 5404
email: s.levey@qmul.ac.uk
Notes to Editors:
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London is one of the UK's leading research-focused higher education institutions with some 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Amongst the largest of the colleges of the University of London, Queen Mary’s 3,000 staff deliver world class degree programmes and research across 21 academic departments and institutes, within three sectors: Science and Engineering; Humanities, Social Sciences and Laws; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Queen Mary is ranked 11th in the UK according to the Guardian analysis of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and has been described as ‘the biggest star among the research-intensive institutions’ by the Times Higher Education.

The College has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 100 countries.

Queen Mary has an annual turnover of £220 million, research income worth £61 million, and generates employment and output worth £600 million to the UK economy each year.

Queen Mary, as a member of the 1994 Group of research-focused universities, has made a strategic commitment to the highest quality of research, but also to the best possible educational, cultural and social experience for its students. The College is unique amongst London's universities in being able to offer a completely integrated residential campus, with a 2,000-bed award-winning Student Village on its Mile End campus.

Simon Levey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.qmul.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>