Mechanics of the syrinx in Gallus gallus. II. Electromyographic studies of ad libitum vocalizations

J Morphol. 1977 Apr;152(1):1-19. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051520102.


Records of electrical activity in the tracheal muscles of domestic chickens were obtained for a variety of ad libitum vocalizations. Primary attention was given to an analysis of events during the most complex call, crowing. Three pairs of muscles, Mm, tracheohyoideus, tracheolateralis, and sternotrachealis, can affect the configuration of a chicken's syrinx. The firing patterns of the three muscle pairs are related to their different abilities to affect the tension of the syringeal membranes. The influence of M. tracheohyoideus is most indirect and imprecise, and its role the least clearly defined. It appears to adjust the position of the trachea so that the syrinx is isolated from unpredictable and/or undesireable consequences of nuchal position and tracheal elasticity, and also helps draw the glottis caudad, thereby deepening the pharyngeal chamber. The other two muscles interact to control the tension of the vocal membranes. M. sternotrachealis relaxes the membranes by drawing the drum of the trachea caudad, or, via the syringeal ligament, by rotating the pessulus cranioventrad, or both. M. tracheolateralis tenses the membranes and/or prevents caudal movement of the orgin of M. sternotrachedalis, a necessity if the syringeal ligament is to rotate the pessulus. Vocalization depends on both syringeal configuration and appropriated air flow. Hence, tracheal muscles, syrinx, air sacs, and ventilatory muscles cooperate to form a vocal system. Cooperation elicits a surprising degree of redundancy. At least one call, a high pitched wail, may be produced by two very different techniques.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Larynx / anatomy & histology
  • Larynx / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*