Washington: A team of researchers has shed some light on how flying birds communicate with each other.
Zebra finches are social songbirds that use distance calls to establish contact with one another, similar to the way humans use speech to communicate.
Although it has been demonstrated that these birds can determine the identity of a caller as far away as 256 meters (or about 830 feet), it is not clear how their brain extracts this information from the call, which becomes degraded and loses intensity relative to the background noise as it travels through the environment.
In a new study, researchers played natural and synthetic calls recorded from distances between 2 and 256 meters while they recorded electrophysiological activity from the auditory area of the brains of zebra finches under anesthesia.
The researchers found single neurons that are sensitive to the uniqueness of calls from different individuals and maintain much of their ability to identify vocalizers with increasing distance.
Other neurons are sensitive to the degradation of the signal, and thus encode information about the propagation distance. A number of neurons are able to discriminate to some extent both individuality and distance.
These findings may help to explain how birds and many other animals are able to maintain communication with others in natural settings.
The study appears in Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)