Global Warming

Songs for Survival

Zebra Finch use song to teach their young how to survive climate change... before the babies even hatch.

Photo: Wikicommons

You’ve heard of human parents talking and playing music to their babies, but did you know that birds do it too? And that it actually has helped baby birds better survive higher temperatures resulting from climate change?

As crazy, cool and whimsical as it sounds, it’s true—or so research from Deakin University on Zebra Finches suggests.

It has been well accepted that some birds can hear through their shells before they hatch, and are one of only a few animals that have been

proven to have auditory learning. Previously, scientists suspected the main evolutionary function of this was so that the baby bird would be able to identify its mother. But with Zebra Finches and perhaps other bird species as well, there appears to be other beneficial results.

The research shows that specific Zebra Finch calls, when sang to the birds before they hatch, result in behaviors and development patterns more suited to higher temperatures. This pattern was first observed and then tested using control groups and incubators. After this simulation, the birds that had been exposed to the special call grew smaller bodies and chose better-suited nests for warmer temperatures.

Zebra Finch live in the Australian Outback, an area that has scrub habitat not too dissimilar from some parts of California. While the study just focused on Zebra Finches, the researchers intend to investigate the phenomenon in more species and look at more long-term effects.

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