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Bioacoustic papers in Nature

Subject: Bioacoustic papers in Nature
From: Dave Mellinger <>
Date: Fri, 29 May 2009 15:37:22 -0700


Nature 459, 28 May 2009

Editor's Summary

Cultural genetic baggage

We tend to think of culture — in humans and in other animals — as something that is 
passed on through social learning. But the species-typical nature of some aspects of cultural 
diversity, and variations between individuals of a particular species, point to possible genetic 
origins. Fehér et al. explored this latter point by analysing the establishment of socially 
learned birdsong in an island colony of naive zebra finches. Although the original founding 
members of the colony were never exposed to tutored birdsong during development, and exhibited a 
song that differed markedly from wild-type, in as few as three or four generations, the tutored 
song approached that of the wild-type. These findings suggest that species-specific song culture 
can develop de novo, and echo the well known instance of de novo evolution of Nicaraguan sign 
language, spontaneously developed by deaf children in Managua, showing grammatical similarities to 
spoken human languages.

Authors: Making the paper: Olga Fehér
Songbirds' melodies have roots in both genes and environment.

News and Views: Animal behaviour: Birdsong normalized by culture
Both birdsong and human language are learned, requiring complex social input. 
New findings show, however, that bird populations 'seeded' with aberrant song 
input transform it to normal song in a few generations.
W. Tecumseh Fitch

Letter: De novo establishment of wild-type song culture in the zebra finch
Olga Fehér, Haibin Wang, Sigal Saar, Partha P. Mitra & Ofer Tchernichovski



XIAO, Jianqiang, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Psychology Department
Rutgers University
152 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854

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