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Class 7, October 7:



We will have a guest speaker for class 7 who will describe how acoustic signals develop within an animal's lifetime.


Samantha Carouso does research on learned vocalizations in songbirds in the Psychology department here at Cornell. She has some awesome data, videos and stories to share. 


Learning objectives:


- Be able to define the terms ‘innate’ and ‘learned’, and explain why vocal communication behavior is rarely just one or the other.


- Be able to deduce how an individual species’ developmental trajectory and life history traits may influence their vocal learning strategy.




Before reading the paper attached below answer the following questions in Piazza:


  1. What do you think is meant by the term ‘innate’? Give your own definition of this term, an example of an animal behavior (from any species) you think is likely to be innate, and explain why you think this based on your definition.

  2. How is a learned behavior different from an innate behavior? Give an example of a naturally-occurring (not human-taught) animal behavior you think is likely learned.



Now read the paper ‘Communicating About Communicating’ answer the final 2 questions.


  1. When studying how vocalizations are acquired during animal development, scientists often raise individual subjects in social isolation to control for the influence of the sounds of other animals. In their article, West, King and Duff claim that "Solitary living is not a developmentally neutral environment" (page 587). What do you think they mean by this? How might the classic paradigm of raising a social animal in isolation affect its development?

  2. West, King, and Duff mention ‘exogenetic inheritance’ as playing an important role in an organism’s vocal learning strategy. In the case of cowbirds learning to sing from female feedback, they point out that in cowbirds “males are as likely to interact with females as they are to develop adult plumage” (page 591). What do you think is meant by ‘exogenetic inheritance’? Why is it or isn’t it reasonable to assume that male cowbirds can depend on encountering females in order to learn song?






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