Recurrent development of song idiosyncrasy without auditory inputs in the canary, an open-ended vocal learner

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 7;8(1):8732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27046-4.


Complex learned behaviors, like bird song and human speech, develop under the influence of both genetic and environmental factors. Accordingly, learned behaviors comprise species specificity and individual variability. Auditory information plays a critical role in vocal learning by songbirds, both to memorize tutor songs and to monitor own vocalizations. Nevertheless, audition-deprived songbirds develop structured, species-specific song patterns. It remains to be elucidated how the auditory input contributes to the development of individual variability of song characteristics. Here we show that an open-ended vocal learner, the canary, annually recapitulates individually unique songs without audition. Although the total number of syllable types was reduced by auditory deprivation, other vocal phenotypes examined in the syllable, phrase, and syntax of songs were conserved between the 1st and 2nd years, both in deafened and intact birds. In deafened canaries, approximately 60% of the syllables were yearly reproduced with consistent acoustic features, whereas the remaining syllables were replaced with new ones in an annual cycle of song development. These results indicate that the open-ended vocal learning of canaries involves an audition-independent mechanism for the development of recurrent song idiosyncrasy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Canaries / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*