In situ biomechanics of the syrinx and sound generation in pigeons

Franz Goller*, Ole Næsbye Larsen

*Kontaktforfatter for dette arbejde

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The in situ biomechanics of the vocal organ, the syrinx, was studied in anesthetized pigeons using fiberoptic instruments. The role of syringeal muscles was determined by electrical stimulation, and phonation was induced by injecting gas into the subsyringeal air sacs. This study presents the first direct observations of the biomechanical processes that occur in an intact syrinx. Contraction of one of the syringeal muscles, the m. tracheolateralis (TL), withdraws the lateral tympaniform membranes (LTM) from the syringeal lumen, causing opening of the syringeal airways. Shortening of a second muscle, the sternotrachealis (ST), draws the syringeal cartilages closer to each other, causing the LTM to fold into the syringeal lumen. Maximal ST contraction does not lead to complete closure of the syrinx. As air-sac pressure is increased by the injection of gas, the LTM are drawn into the syringeal lumen and balloon in a rostral direction until they touch, thus forming a fold-like valve. Air-induced phonation is always associated with vibrations of the membrane folds, suggesting that pulsatile release of air into the trachea by vibratory motion of the LTM generates sound. During air-induced phonation, strong stimulation of the TL terminates sound generation by abducting the LTM, whereas weak stimulation changes the geometry of the membrane folds, which is accompanied by changes in the acoustic structure of the sound. Stimulation of the ST has little effect on air-induced sounds. The LTM appear to be the main sound generators, since disabling the medial tympaniform membranes (MTM) with tissue adhesive does not prevent phonation or change the frequency and amplitude structure of display coos in spontaneously vocalizing pigeons. Moreover, the activity of the syringeal muscles appears to have a mainly modulatory function, suggesting that the basic sound-generating mechanism is similar in both air-induced and natural phonation.

TidsskriftJournal of Experimental Biology
Udgave nummer16
Sider (fra-til)2165-2176
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 1. aug. 1997