Cultural Evolution Changes Bird Song

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Thanks to cultural evolution, male Savannah sparrows are changing their tune, partly to attract “the ladies.”

According to a study of more than 30 years of Savannah sparrows recordings, the birds are singing distinctly different songs today than their ancestors did 30 years ago — changes passed along generation to generation, according to a new study by University of Guelph researchers.

Integrative biology professors Ryan Norris and Amy Newman, in collaboration with researchers at Bowdoin College and Williams College in the U.S., analyzed the songs of male Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichiensis) recorded over three decades, and found that the songs had changed distinctly from 1980 to 2011.

“The change is the result of cultural transmission of different song elements through many generations,” said Norris.

Norris added that the change in tune resembles changes in word choice and language among humans.

“If you listen to how people used to talk in the 1890s and how we talk today, you would notice major differences, and this is the result of shifts in culture or the popularity of certain forms,” he said. “The change in sparrow songs over time has occurred much the same way”

Written By: Science Daily
continue to source article at sciencedaily.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. So memes exist outside of the human experience? Dennett, what do you have to say for yourself?

    I think we should own up to the fact that memes seem to be observable in whales and some birds.

  2. In reply to #4 by NilsPihl:

    So memes exist outside of the human experience? Dennett, what do you have to say for yourself?

    I think we should own up to the fact that memes seem to be observable in whales and some birds.

    I wasn’t aware that Dennet was so strongly against memes in other animals, where did he say that? In any case I think its still a very open question how useful the meme concept is. Anthropologist Scott Atran has raised some objections to it that I’ve never seen Dawkins or any other meme proponent answer. Here is a link to his paper The Trouble with Memes: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/satran/files/human_nature_01.pdf

  3. In reply to #3 by maria melo:

    I supposed the brain, in it´s complexity, allows culture as a flexible adaptation, so culture despite being “flexible” is an adaptative strategy of an evolved brain itself.

    Yes but how do we know it’s not purely structural changes in the brain causing this and no outside concept of culture at all?

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