Songbirds 'possess a musical instrument more complex than anything found in an orchestra'
Tuesday 08 January 2013
Songbirds possess a musical instrument more complex than anything found in an orchestra, a study has confirmed.
Known as the syrinx, it is the bird's version of the voice box or larynx in humans.
Scientists used 3D imaging to examine the structure, located where the windpipe forks into the lungs, in unparalleled detail.
They showed how muscles, cartilage and bone work together to allow birds to sing highly intricate songs even in flight.
The syrinx has two pairs of vocal cords, allowing songbirds to produce two different notes at the same time.
Songbirds routinely perform a feat equivalent to an orchestra musician playing two instruments at once while dancing.
Lead scientist Dr Coen Elemans, from the University of Southern Denmark, said: "We show how the syrinx is adapted for superfast trills and how it can be stabilised while the bird moves. Also we emphasise how several muscles may work together to control for example the pitch or volume of the sound produced."
There are striking similarities between the way young birds learn to sing and the way babies learn to speak, which intrigue experts.
"We know quite a bit about how the songbird brain codes and decodes songs and how young songbirds learn to imitate the songs of their adult fathers," said Dr Elemans.
"But we know very little about the instrument itself, the vocal organ called syrinx."
The research is published in the online journal BMC Biology.
Greenpeace comes to the aid of Britain's small fishing vessels
Frilled shark: Australian fishermen capture terrifying shark from the deep
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
Animal Extinction - the greatest threat to mankind
Brazil drought: It's a really dry January in the South American country, with rainfall is at its lowest level since 1930
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...