Bird song tradition and human language
Research report (imported) 2003 - Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Human language and bird song are convergently evolved communication systems. A large-scale comparison revealed more developmental and functional parallels than are usually assumed. Song elements copied from foreign species have become a valuable research tool in cognition analysis. Experimentally introduced into the species-specific song such elements can help to elucidate the meaning of single song elements and to test whether birdsong is a recursive system, i.e. that altering the element sequence can change that sequence's general meaning, as is the case in our language. Also, it opens the possibility to pinpoint the evolutionary consequences of traditive (from brain to brain tranferred) behaviour traits. Using canary-raised house sparrows, Lucie H. Salwiczek at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology demonstrated the importance of an integrative approach for our understanding of cognitive capabilities in animal behaviour, with a special emphasis on neuro-anatomical correlates of learning and the constraining role of morphological body-structures in reproducing a learnt behaviour.