Magazine article Science News

Super Bird: Cooing Doves Flex Extra-Fast Muscles

Magazine article Science News

Super Bird: Cooing Doves Flex Extra-Fast Muscles

Article excerpt

The power behind a ring dove's trill belongs to the fastest class of vertebrate muscles known, reports a team of physiologists. This is the first demonstration of superfast muscles in a bird, the researchers say.

These muscles contract some 10 times as fast as the muscles that vertebrates typically use for running, says Coen Elemans of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Concentrations of such high-speed tissue also occur in the rattlesnake's tail and the toadfish's swim bladder, which the fish uses to produce sound. Some vertebrates' jaw and eye muscles have superfast fibers, but these muscles are slower than the superfast snake and fish muscles.

Elemans says that a dove's trill, although fast, isn't particularly fancy as birdsongs go. If people examine other birds' vocal muscles, they are likely to find other examples of superfast contractions. "It's probably all around us," says Elemans.

Birdsong specialist Carel ten Cate of Leiden University, in the Netherlands takes a similar viewpoint. He says that despite the known differences among birds' muscle arrangements, "it would be surprising if it was only in the dove group that they evolved to become very fast."

Elemans points out that people for centuries have been looking for the mechanisms behind birdsongs but that recent electronic and physiological advances have opened new frontiers. In the Sept. 9 Nature, he and his colleagues report on studies of ringdoves (Streptopelia risoria), an African species domesticated by hobbyists. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.