3 years ago

Sounds of Modified Flight Feathers Reliably Signal Danger in a Pigeon

Sounds of Modified Flight Feathers Reliably Signal Danger in a Pigeon
Jochen Zeil, Trevor G. Murray, Robert D. Magrath


In his book on sexual selection, Darwin [1] devoted equal space to non-vocal and vocal communication in birds. Since then, vocal communication has become a model for studies of neurobiology, learning, communication, evolution, and conservation [2, 3]. In contrast, non-vocal "instrumental music," as Darwin called it, has only recently become subject to sustained inquiry [4, 5]. In particular, outstanding work reveals how feathers, often highly modified, produce distinctive sounds [6–9], and suggests that these sounds have evolved at least 70 times, in many orders [10]. It remains to be shown, however, that such sounds are signals used in communication. Here we show that crested pigeons (Ochyphaps lophotes) signal alarm with specially modified wing feathers. We used video and feather-removal experiments to demonstrate that the highly modified 8th primary wing feather (P8) produces a distinct note during each downstroke. The sound changes with wingbeat frequency, so that birds fleeing danger produce wing sounds with a higher tempo. Critically, a playback experiment revealed that only if P8 is present does the sound of escape flight signal danger. Our results therefore indicate, nearly 150 years after Darwin's book, that modified feathers can be used for non-vocal communication, and they reveal an intrinsically reliable alarm signal.

Publisher URL: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)31268-X

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.068

You might also like
Discover & Discuss Important Research

Keeping up-to-date with research can feel impossible, with papers being published faster than you'll ever be able to read them. That's where Researcher comes in: we're simplifying discovery and making important discussions happen. With over 19,000 sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, universities, podcasts and Live events across 10 research areas, you'll never miss what's important to you. It's like social media, but better. Oh, and we should mention - it's free.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.