Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research of plain wren duets could help further understand fundamentals of conversation

02.03.2015

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.


This is an audio recording of a duet of the plain wrens of Costa Rice.

Credit: Karla D. Rivera-Càceres, University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, Department of 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."

###

http://www.miami.edu/news

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.

Media Contact

Megan Ondrizek
m.ondrizek@umiami.edu
305-284-3667

 @univmiami

http://www.miami.edu 

Megan Ondrizek | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Platinum nanoparticles for selective treatment of liver cancer cells
15.02.2019 | ETH Zurich

nachricht New molecular blueprint advances our understanding of photosynthesis
15.02.2019 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Regensburg physicists watch electron transfer in a single molecule

For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.

The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...

Im Focus: University of Konstanz gains new insights into the recent development of the human immune system

Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens

Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...

Im Focus: Transformation through Light

Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light

When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...

Im Focus: Famous “sandpile model” shown to move like a traveling sand dune

Researchers at IST Austria find new property of important physical model. Results published in PNAS

The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...

Im Focus: Cryo-force spectroscopy reveals the mechanical properties of DNA components

Physicists from the University of Basel have developed a new method to examine the elasticity and binding properties of DNA molecules on a surface at extremely low temperatures. With a combination of cryo-force spectroscopy and computer simulations, they were able to show that DNA molecules behave like a chain of small coil springs. The researchers reported their findings in Nature Communications.

DNA is not only a popular research topic because it contains the blueprint for life – it can also be used to produce tiny components for technical applications.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Global Legal Hackathon at HAW Hamburg

11.02.2019 | Event News

The world of quantum chemistry meets in Heidelberg

30.01.2019 | Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gravitational waves will settle cosmic conundrum

15.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Spintronics by 'straintronics'

15.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Platinum nanoparticles for selective treatment of liver cancer cells

15.02.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>