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Fraternal singing in zebra finches: Young zebra finches are able to learn their fathers' song via their brothers

Date:
June 12, 2013
Source:
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Summary:
Social learning from peers is a widespread phenomenon in infants. Peer group size may influence the degree to which interactions within the group can influence their own behavior. This insight nowadays gains more importance as an increasing number of children get into contact with large group peers at an even earlier age, for example in day care.

Singing siblings: zebra finches that grew up without their dads and therefore without a "song model", don't have to worry about having no singing repertoire. As researchers discovered, the birds can also learn their song through their brothers.
Credit: © Huet des Aunay

Social learning from peers is a widespread phenomenon in infants. Peer group size may influence the degree to which interactions within the group can influence their own behaviour. This insight nowadays gains more importance as an increasing number of children get into contact with large group peers at an even earlier age, for example in day nurseries.

The type of social partners can also be crucial for the intensity of social learning. A well-known example is the spontaneous development of a particular language in adolescent deaf children in several schools in Nicaragua in the eighties. These pupils invented a private sign-language with Creole characteristics. With this, they emancipated themselves from their unaware teachers who taught the normal sign language. Therefore, the same-age peers had the same or an even larger role model function than the adult teachers.

Song learning from peers has now been investigated by Sébastien Derégnaucourt and Manfred Gahr from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen using juvenile zebra finches. In their study, young males were raised by both parents until the age of 14 days. Afterwards the mother and her chicks were separated from the father. Juvenile zebra finches start to memorise song from the age of 17 days on. When the chicks were about one month old, one of the sons was given back to his father for one week in order to hear his songs, while the other son was kept alone in another room.

After the week the two brothers were reunited. When they became adult at 100 days of age the researchers recorded their songs. First, they found that juveniles exposed to their fathers learned his song, although the degree of song learning showed large individual variation, which the researchers attributed to the relatively short exposure period. These sons were then able to transmit their songs to their brothers that had been without their fathers since they were two weeks old. Remarkably, after the completion of the song learning phase as adults, there was a high similarity in the songs of the two brothers. This similarity was even higher than the similarity that the researchers measured between the paternal song and the song of the son to whom he was exposed. These results show that a juvenile peer can be a role model that is as efficient as an adult suggesting a large social component underlying song learning, explains Sébastien Derégnaucourt.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Deregnaucourt, M. Gahr. Horizontal transmission of the father's song in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Biology Letters, 2013; 9 (4): 20130247 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0247

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Fraternal singing in zebra finches: Young zebra finches are able to learn their fathers' song via their brothers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612093647.htm>.
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. (2013, June 12). Fraternal singing in zebra finches: Young zebra finches are able to learn their fathers' song via their brothers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612093647.htm
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Fraternal singing in zebra finches: Young zebra finches are able to learn their fathers' song via their brothers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612093647.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

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