Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bird songs change with the landscape

When the going gets rough, the tough apparently sing slower.

As vegetation reclaimed formerly cleared land in California, Oregon and Washington over the last 35 years, male white-crowned sparrows have lowered their pitch and slowed down their singing so that their love songs would carry better through heavier foliage.

"This is the first time that anyone has shown that bird songs can shift with rapid changes in habitat," says biologist Elizabeth Derryberry who made the finding as part of her dissertation research at Duke University.

She compared recordings of individual birds in 15 different areas with some nearly forgotten recordings made at the same spots in the 1970s by a California Academy of Sciences researcher, and found that the musical pitch and speed of the trill portion of the sparrows' short songs had dropped considerably. "I was really surprised to find that songs had changed in a similar way in so many different populations."

She then used archival aerial photography to see how the foliage had changed in a subset of those spots, and found that the one population whose song hadn't slowed down lived in an area where the foliage hadn't changed either.

The physics is clear, but the biology is a little less certain. A lower, slower song suffers less reverberation in denser foliage and will be heard more accurately. In turn, that means it is more likely to be copied by young males who are choosing which song they will learn. Over generations, that should cause the song to slow down and drop in pitch as the foliage changes.

In the short term however, Derryberry doesn't know whether the clearer song wins better territories or mates, although she does know that these changes in song do affect both male and female behavior.

The results add to a growing body of evidence that the acoustic and visual communications of animals change with their habitat. "Given how much the world's habitats are changing, this is sort of an unexpected but useful factor to monitor," Derryberry said. She's now testing the broader effects of ecology on song evolution in birds across areas of South America where habitat may be changing due to deforestation and global warming.

Derryberry, who earlier discovered that female white-crowned sparrows preferred the slower new songs to the chirpy old ones, is now a researcher at Louisiana State University. Her latest findings appear in the July edition of American Naturalist.

Karl Leif Bates | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Deforestation Ecology bird songs global warming white-crowned sparrows

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>