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, 17 (3), e3000184

New Perspectives on the Origins of the Unique Vocal Tract of Birds


New Perspectives on the Origins of the Unique Vocal Tract of Birds

Michael B Habib. PLoS Biol.


Birds utilize a unique structure, called a syrinx, for the production of their vocalizations. The origins of the syrinx are not well understood. New work, utilizing first principles-based models, suggests that a key element in selection for the early syrinx might be the position of this vocal structure: although the larynx sits at the cranial end of the airway, the avian syrinx is located at the base of the airway at the split of the trachea to the lungs. This position may make the syrinx intrinsically more efficient, which might have been critical in the origin of this anatomical feature.

Conflict of interest statement

The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Comment on

  • The evolution of the syrinx: An acoustic theory.
    Riede T, Thomson SL, Titze IR, Goller F. Riede T, et al. PLoS Biol. 2019 Feb 7;17(2):e2006507. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2006507. eCollection 2019 Feb. PLoS Biol. 2019. PMID: 30730882 Free PMC article.

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Grant support

The author received no specific funding for this work.