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.
- Latest Updates
Tax deduction for a gym membership?
April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?
- Figure in Mingo probe sues ex-officials, others
Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner
Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.
VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong
The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.
E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say
The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.
- Manchin urges mines to speak out about coal
- Trial underway in case of woman charged with attempted murder of Bluefield store clerk
- Gillespie raises $2.2 million in Va. Senate bid
- Police respond to report of a naked man at Mercer County restaurant
- Tributes planned to mark Boston Marathon bombing
- More Latest Updates Headlines
- Tax deduction for a gym membership?