It’s not that birds and people are highly similar in evolutionary terms and thus share this same basic trait of needing to learn how to vocalize like our kin. Indeed it’s been about 300 million years since birds and humans had a common evolutionary ancestor – that’s a long time even by geologic standards! At some point since that long ago split, both the animals that became birds and the primates that later led to us people independently acquired the ability to make complex tones and sounds. Erich Jarvis of Duke University Medical Center is a neurobiologist who has “gone to the birds” in his quest to understand how it is some animals learn to speak the languages in which different species are immersed. He and his colleagues recently announced findings of their work. One of the take away messages of the research is that brains in quite different species have evolved over time in similar ways to produce highly useful features like songs and speech. “I feel more comfortable that we can link structures in songbird brains to analogous structures in human brains due to convergent evolution,” Jarvis said to a reporter from ScienceNews. Jarvis and company have discovered some 80 genes that turn off and on in like manner in the brains of songbirds and people. The genes don’t behave that way in the brains of birds that don’t learn tunes from their parents. The research could have some useful applications. It’s possible that combining it with the data that describes the entire genetic code of people could yield practical information about things like speech disorders. Like the longer and longer days we’re enjoying, that would be something to sing about. --- Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.
- Sister Newspapers' Blogs
Democrats' double-standard brands opponents of Obamacare
Are the president's critics patriots or obstructionists? That all depends on which president is being criticized.
December 13, 2013 1 Photo
Editor stranded in ice storm experiences truest form of humanity
A foolish drive left me alone with my car stuck on a steep hill of a back road, covered in ice with temperatures falling into the low 20s. But as is the case with any horror story, heroes emerged to aid the helpless.
December 11, 2013 1 Photo
Live blog: A historically-accurate reenactment of JFK's assassination
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To remember the event, watch a live experience of what happened that day in 1963, as it would be covered by news outlets today.
November 22, 2013 1 Photo
50 years can't fade a day to remember
I don’t remember what I had for lunch last Wednesday or Thursday, but I do recall what I was doing and what I was eating on Nov. 22, 1963, when I learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.
November 18, 2013 1 Photo
Do animals understand pointing like humans do?
Understanding pointing apparently takes some sophistication. Even chimpanzees, who are smart cookies in many ways, don’t “get it” when it comes to pointing.
November 14, 2013 1 Photo
Health care choice another of Obama's broken promises
In selling Obamacare, the president told Americans they could keep their doctors and their health care plans. MIllions of Americans are now finding out that was a sales line - not the truth.
November 1, 2013 1 Photo
A night to remember … my first pie supper
June 7, 2013 1 Photo
Have you updated your bucket list?
June 3, 2013 1 Photo
Japanese find a new source of natural gas
May 22, 2013 1 Photo
Uncle Ed: Vain as a peacock, cool as a cucumber
May 20, 2013 1 Photo
- More Sister Newspapers' Blogs Headlines
- Democrats' double-standard brands opponents of Obamacare
- Bill Archer
- A beautiful tune can float like a blanket of air gliding over rolling hills 9 days 1 Photo
- Journey of mother’s recovery brings a new blessing each day 16 days 1 Photo
- Back-to-back state championships will stand in the record books 23 days 1 Photo
- A search for relics ignites a desire to search for understanding 30 days 1 Photo
- Success in business with a servant’s heart, Dick Copeland cared for people 44 days 1 Photo
- Unsolicited help from a Virginia state trooper came at the right moment 51 days 1 Photo
- You can beat a bully by not letting them have power over what is right 58 days 1 Photo
- Mention of the word ‘snow blower’ leads to momentarily lapse in thought 65 days 1 Photo
- New age of communications arrived to leave ‘ancient communications’ behind 72 days 1 Photo
- Watching a tractor-trailer jackknife in slow motion is a lesson on life 79 days 1 Photo
- AP Video
- Raw: Man Fatally Shot During Police Standoff Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers Raw: Royal Couple Tours Uluru in Australia Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Raw: Tesla Delivers First China Cars Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named Raw: Sinkhole Swallows Part of Fla. Yard David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects Hong Kong Residents Help Create Green Roofs Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener
- Greg Jordan
- Beware of faraway friends and strangers who want to give you money 6 days 1 Photo
- From Flat Top to Middle Earth, a celebration of spring continues 20 days 1 Photo
- Some of the nation’s unsolved mysteries have become part of our folklore 27 days 1 Photo
- Write away: Cursive skills provide valuable link to historical information 34 days 1 Photo
- Conversations with kids: Sometimes a little white lie is best 48 days 1 Photo
- Mobile clinic underscores strength of veterans’ determination 55 days 1 Photo
- Preparing a snake and three tarantulas for a winter storm is not easy 62 days 1 Photo
- Polar chills spur longing for spring, but winter could be worse 83 days 1 Photo
- Plenty to do in Mercer County, but new businesses would be welcomed 90 days 1 Photo
- Rise and shine: Prevent mishaps with extra time on wintry mornings 97 days 1 Photo