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Multimodal Signals: Enhancement and Constraint of Song Motor Patterns by Visual Display

Science  23 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5657, pp. 544-546
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091099

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Abstract

Many birds perform visual signals during their learned songs, but little is known about the interrelationship between visual and vocal displays. We show here that male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) synchronize the most elaborate wing movements of their display with atypically long silent periods in their song, potentially avoiding adverse biomechanical effects on sound production. Furthermore, expiratory effort for song is significantly reduced when cowbirds perform their wing display. These results show a close integration between vocal and visual displays and suggest that constraints and synergistic interactions between the motor patterns of multimodal signals influence the evolution of birdsong.

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