Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Superfast Muscles in Songbirds

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Superfast Muscles in Songbirds

Article excerpt

Certain songbirds can contract their vocal muscles 100 times faster than humans can blink an eye--placing the birds with a handful of animals that have evolved superfast muscles, according to University of Utah researchers.

"We discovered that the European starling (found throughout Eurasia and North America) and the zebrafinch (found in Australia and Indonesia) control their songs with the fastest-contracting muscle type yet described," says Coen Elemans, who conducted the study as a post-doctoral researcher in biology at the University of Utah. Elemans and colleagues' findings are published in the Public Library of Science's online journal PLoS ONE.

"Superfast muscles were previously known only from the sound-producing organs of rattlesnakes, several fish, and the ringdove," Elemans says. "We now have shown that songbirds also evolved this extreme-performance muscle type, suggesting these muscles, once thought extraordinary, are more common than previously believed." He adds that while the study examines two species of songbirds, "it is very likely that all songbirds have these muscles. …

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