Courting Bird Sings with Stridulating Wing Feathers

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Science  29 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5735, pp. 736
DOI: 10.1126/science.1111701

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In birds and other vertebrates, most acoustic signals are produced pneumatically by moving air through a vocal apparatus. Here we describe a unique mechanism used to produce a tonal acoustic signal in vertebrates. Video recordings of the courtship displays of male Club-winged Manakins, Machaeropterus deliciosus, reveal that males produce sustained harmonic tones through interactions among oscillating secondary wing feathers. This mechanism of sound production shows morphological and mechanistic convergence with arthropod stridulation. Intersexual selection for production of a nonvocal courtship song has led to major morphological, functional, and likely physiological modifications in the wing of this flying bird.

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