University of Miami researcher finds that plain wren couples give each other cues to perform precisely coordinated duets
Known for their beautiful singing duets, plain wrens of Costa Rica perform precise phrase-by-phrase modifications to the duration between two consecutive phrases, achieving careful coordination as their songs unfold, according to a new study published in the Journal of Avian Biology.
Duetting is a highly complex collaboration, yet little is known about the mechanisms underlying this behavior. The plain wren males and females alternate sounds so quickly that sometimes it seems as if a single bird is singing.
"Hearing a plain wren pair singing a spotless duet is overwhelming," said Karla D. Rivera-Càceres, Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Miami (UM) College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the study. "This intricate coordination between mating partners is achieved by a complex and dynamic process, where individuals use rules to determine how, or if the vocal interaction is to continue."
The new study shows that these songbirds achieve precise coordination by adjusting the period between two consecutive phrases (inter-phrase intervals), depending on whether their song is answered, the phrase type used in the duet and the position of the inter-phrase interval within the duet.
It has been said that it is the space between the notes or phrases that gives meaning to music; plain wrens demonstrate this well. Rivera-Càceres studied these songbirds in Costa Rica, at La Suerte Field Station and its surrounding areas, where plain wrens are common. She recorded duets of males and females and measured the inter-phrase intervals in their songs.
She found that females perform longer inter-phase intervals when their mates don't answer a phrase, and males produce shorter inter-phrase intervals when their female partners don't answer.
Females also change the inter-phase intervals based only on the phrase type their mates sing. While, males modify their inter-phrase intervals based on both the phrase they sing and the phrase the females use to answer. And although both males and females create longer interphase intervals for longer phrase types sung by their partners, males are more precise than the females.
It's possible that this highly coordinated behavior could signal pair bond strength--the level of commitment a mated male and female have of cooperating with one another.
"Plain wren couples collaborate with each other in two important activities, parental care and territory defense, both of which have big effects on their joint reproductive success," Rivera-Càceres said. "In plain wrens, it seems that individuals invest in performing duets with high coordination, which could help communicate how committed they are to their mates."
This meticulous study of duet coordination has not only revealed how coordination is achieved in plain wrens, but also has implications for how duets develop and how they function, explained William Searcy, professor and Maytag Chair in Ornithology in the College of Arts and Sciences at UM and director of the lab where Rivera-Càceres conducts her research. "I expect her approach to be a model for conducting parallel studies in other species."
The findings may have even broader implications. One of the most studied vocal interactions is human conversation; however, because of its complexity, it's very difficult to understand the rules that govern it.
These vocal interactions among plain wrens could help us understand some fundamental aspects of human conversation, such as turn taking. The study is titled "Plain wrens Cantorchilus modestus zeledoni adjust their singing tempo based on self and partner's cues to perform precisely coordinated duets."
The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of our diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.
Megan Ondrizek | EurekAlert!
Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
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...
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...
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...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences
27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering