Natasha Mhatre, Western University, London, Ontario, CA: An insect that uses a tool to sing and an amplifier to hear

Talk Natasha Mhatre, Seewiesen
Crickets use sound to find each other space over which potential mates can sense each other is determined by the loudness of song and the sensitivity of the auditory system. According to the textbooks, this space is enhanced purely ‘passively’ through morphology and mechanical resonance. Song producting wings and females ears resonate at the same frequency enhancing the size of their acoustic space. But some crickets didn’t read the textbook. In this talk, I will present my research on Oecanthus henryi which is one such species. O. henryi is a tree cricket, and males of this species use an active behavioural strategy to make themselves louder. They manufacture an acoustic baffle, a tool that makes them louder. In fact, using a series of models and experiments, we showed that not only do they manufacture a tool, but they manufacture an optimal tool. Not to be outdone, we found that O. henryi females, have an active physiological amplification system in their ears. Using careful neurobiology we show that the amplifier doesn’t actually make them more sensitive than other crickets, as previously speculated. Rather, it allows them to change the frequency that they are sensitive to. What is even more remarkable is that this amplification is acheived through the activity of only a handful of motors protein. Both findings underline the poverty of our descriptions of invertebrate behaviour and biophysics, and point to a wealth of innovations yet to be discovered even among these ‘simple’ organisms. [mehr]

Scott Taylor: University of Colorado: Insights from avian hybridization into the origin and maintenance of biodiversity

Talk Scott Taylor, Seewiesen
What generates and maintains biological diversity? This major question in evolutionary biology has fascinated scientists for centuries and continues to drive new and exciting research. Explore recent findings that examine avian hybridization in chickadees and wagtails, species boundaries in redpoll finches, and the genetic basis of spatial cognition, to gain a better understanding of divergence and speciation in birds. From the genetic basis of feather color to metabolic pathways that differ between closely related species, this work is helping us better understand what makes species different, and how those differences contribute to the maintenance of avian biodiversity [mehr]

Brett Sandercock, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research: title tba

Talk Brett Sandercock, Seewiesen

Arkarup Banerjee, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Motor cortical dynamics underlying vocal interactions in the singing mice

Talk Arkarup Banerjee, Seewiesen
Using sounds for social interactions is common across many taxa. Humans engaged in conversation, for example, take rapid turns to go back and forth. This ability to act upon sensory information to generate a desired motor output is a fundamental feature of animal behavior. How the brain enables such flexible sensorimotor transformations, for example during vocal interactions, is a central question in neuroscience. Seeking a rodent model to fill this niche, we are investigating neural mechanisms of vocal interaction in Alston’s singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina) – a neotropical rodent native to the cloud forests of Central America. We discovered sub-second temporal coordination of advertisement songs (counter-singing) between males of this species – a behavior that requires the rapid modification of motor outputs in response to auditory cues. We leveraged this natural behavior to probe the neural mechanisms that generate and allow fast and flexible vocal communication. Using causal manipulations, we recently showed that an orofacial motor cortical area (OMC) in this rodent is required for vocal interactions (Okobi*, Banerjee* et. al, 2019). Subsequently, in electrophysiological recordings, I find neurons in OMC that track initiation, termination and relative timing of songs. Interestingly, persistent neural dynamics during song progression stretches or compresses on every trial to match the total song duration (Banerjee et al, in preparation). These results demonstrate robust cortical control of vocal timing in a rodent and forces us to reconsider the evolutionary origins of motor cortical control of vocal output. [mehr]

Susan Alberts, Duke University: "The medicine of life": Social life and survival in primates

Talk Susan Alberts, Seewiesen
Longitudinal studies of animal social behavior and demography allow us to understand how environments at one stage of life affect fitness outcomes at another stage of life. This question is important both in the biological sciences and in the human social sciences. Here, I briefly review evidence from the human social sciences that document, and raise important questions about, the profound links between early life, adult life, and longevity. Next, I draw parallels between those studies and biological studies of wild animal systems, where researchers have long studied these links. I argue that wild animal systems, by answering questions that are difficult or impossible to answer in human studies, shed light on the deep evolutionary roots of the human sensitivity to the social environment. They also provide insight into the mechanisms by which environments at one stage of life affect survival outcomes at a later stage of life. Most of the examples I discuss come from my long-term research project, the Amboseli Baboon Research Project. [mehr]
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