“We discovered that the European starling (found throughout Eurasia and North-America) and the zebrafinch (found in Australia and Indonesia) control their songs with the fastest-contracting muscle type yet described,” says Coen Elemans, who conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher in biology at the University of Utah.
Elemans and his colleagues are publishing their findings in the Wednesday, July 9, edition of the Public Library of Science’s online journal PLoS ONE.
“Superfast muscles were previously known only from the sound-producing organs of rattlesnakes, several fish and the ringdove,” Elemans says. “We now have shown that songbirds also evolved this extreme performance muscle type, suggesting these muscles – once thought extraordinary – are more common than previously believed.”
While the study examined two species of songbirds, “it is very likely that all songbirds have these muscles,” he adds.
Elemans, the study’s first author, now is a postdoctoral researcher in biology at the University of Southern Denmark. He conducted the study with Franz Goller, a University of Utah associate professor of biology; and two University of Pennsylvania scientists: Andrew Mead, a doctoral student, and Lawrence Rome, a professor of biology.
“Songbirds use complex song to communicate with one another,” Elemans says. “Many species are able to change the volume and-or frequency of their song faster than ordinary vertebrate muscles are able to contract.”
To conduct the study, the biologists measured vocal muscle activity in freely singing birds and made laboratory measurements of isolated muscles.
They found the zebrafinch and European starling can contract and relax their vocal muscles in 3 to 4 milliseconds, or three-thousandths to four-thousandths of a second, which is 100 times faster than the 300 milliseconds to 400 milliseconds (three-tenths to four-tenths of a second) it takes for humans to blink an eye, Elemans says.
The birds’ vocal muscles move structures analogous to “vocal folds” in humans. The muscles change the position and stiffness of these folds to alter the volume and frequency of the sound.
Superfast muscles can produce mechanical work or power at more than 100 hertz (times per second) and these superfast vocal muscles at up to 250 hertz, which means the birds can turn elements of their song on and off 250 times per second, Elemans says.
These frequencies are known as “modulation frequencies” that are imposed on the sound to control or modulate the volume and frequency of the bird’s song.
“By having these extraordinary muscles, birds have a more precise control of their voice and can actively change the volume and frequency of their song faster than previously thought physically possible,” Elemans says.Contacts:
Lee Siegel | Newswise Science News
More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy