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!
Cell Division at High Speed
19.06.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Monitoring biodiversity with sound: how machines can enrich our knowledge
18.06.2019 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.
Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...
The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified
The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...
Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.
Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...
Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.
The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...
Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.
The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
19.06.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.06.2019 | Information Technology
19.06.2019 | Materials Sciences