The interplay of within-species perceptual predispositions and experience during song ontogeny in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

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ter Haar, Sita M
Kaemper, Wiebke
Stam, Koen
Levelt, Clara C
ten Cate, Carel
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2014
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Abstract

Vocal acquisition in songbirds and humans shows many similarities, one of which is that both involve a combination of experience and perceptual predispositions. Among languages some speech sounds are shared, while others are not. This could reflect a predisposition in young infants for learning some speech sounds over others, which combines with exposure-based learning. Similarly, in songbirds, some sounds are common across populations, while others are more specific to populations or individuals. We examine whether this is also due to perceptual preferences for certain within-species element types in naive juvenile male birds, and how such preferences interact with exposure to guide subsequent song learning. We show that young zebra finches lacking previous song exposure perceptually prefer songs with more common zebra finch song element types over songs with less common elements. Next, we demonstrate that after subsequent tutoring, birds prefer tutor songs regardless of whether these contain more common or less common elements. In adulthood, birds tutored with more common elements showed a higher song similarity to their tutor song, indicating that the early bias influenced song learning. Our findings help to understand the maintenance of similarities and the presence of differences among birds' songs, their dialects and human languages.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

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281

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1796

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Biological sciences

Agricultural, veterinary and food sciences

Biomedical and clinical sciences

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ter Haar, SM; Kaemper, W; Stam, K; Levelt, CC; ten Cate, C, The interplay of within-species perceptual predispositions and experience during song ontogeny in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014, 281 (1796)

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