Syringeal vocal folds do not have a voice in zebra finch vocal development

Alyssa Maxwell, Iris Adam, Pernille S. Larsen, Peter G. Sørensen, Coen P.H. Elemans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Vocal behavior can be dramatically changed by both neural circuit development and postnatal maturation of the body. During song learning in songbirds, both the song system and syringeal muscles are functionally changing, but it is unknown if maturation of sound generators within the syrinx contributes to vocal development. Here we densely sample the respiratory pressure control space of the zebra finch syrinx in vitro. We show that the syrinx produces sound very efficiently and that key acoustic parameters, minimal fundamental frequency, entropy and source level, do not change over development in both sexes. Thus, our data suggest that the observed acoustic changes in vocal development must be attributed to changes in the motor control pathway, from song system circuitry to muscle force, and not by material property changes in the avian analog of the vocal folds. We propose that in songbirds, muscle use and training driven by the sexually dimorphic song system are the crucial drivers that lead to sexual dimorphism of the syringeal skeleton and musculature. The size and properties of the instrument are thus not changing, while its player is.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6469
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 19. Mar 2021


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