News about Zebra Finches

1. Escapades:

It is well known among breeders that Zebra Finches pair for life: their "wedlock" lasts until death. Social loyalty, however, does not necessarily include sexual loyalty, too: DNA fingerprinting of nestlings and their parents in the wild has shown that occasionally only one parent is related to a nestling.
    It even happens that a female lays an egg in the nest of another Zebra Finch pair – which is somehow reminisent of a cuckoo; then the offspring is related to none of the parents ...

2. Song learning by the radio:

According to a report in the regional Dutch newspaper BN/De Slem of 16 Nov, 1999 (right) Zebra Finches can learn their specific songs by the radio or a cassette recorder.

This conclusion has been reached by the ethologist B. Houx following investigations into the song learning process of young Zebra Finches. The result is surprising because it has been established up to now, that Zebra Finches learn their songs due to the bodily presence of one of the parents.
    Listening to the radio can replace the model of a parent, but it leads to inferior song quality. According to Houx, his findings set a new tone in the research into the relation between the learning processes and brain function.


Ook radio kan zebravinken liedjes leren

LEIDEN (ANP) – Zebravinken zijn voor het leren van liedjes niet uitsluitend afhankelijk van vader of oom. De radio (of recorder) is een net zo goed leermeester

Tot die conclusie komt gedragsbioloog B. Houx na onderzoek van het zangleerproces van jonge zebravinken. De uitkomst van het onderzoek is verrassend, omdat tot dusver werd aangenomen dat zebravinken zich hun deuntjes eigen maakten dankzij de lijfelijke aanwezigheid van een van hun ouders. Door goed naar de radio te luisteren kan dat ook, al leidt het wel tot mindere zangkwaliteit. Volgens Houx, die morgen promoveert aan de Universiteit Leiden, zetten zijn bevindingen een nieuwe toon in het onderzoek naar de relatie tussen leerprocessen en hersenwerking.

3. Practising singing fast asleep ...

Zebra Finches practise and perfect their song while sleeping: As reported in Geo 2001, No. 2, the US-American Biologist Daniel Margoliash (University of Chicago) has measured the cerebral activities of young male Zebra Finches by means of tiny wire contacts and found out that by night almost the same impulse patterns show as by day, when singing is audible. This means that by night Zebra Finches retrieve their neuronal activities, thus practising their song. The slight differences are due to the fact that during the day the birds alternately listen to the songs of their parents and other Zebra Finches, whereas by night they have time to improvise, i. e. invent variations that they are going to try out the next day.

More news will follow ...

English  deutsch  nederlandse © 01.05.1999 nach oben Fact File