Royal Society Publishing

Horizontal transmission of the father's song in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Sébastien Derégnaucourt , Manfred Gahr


As is the case for human speech, birdsong is transmitted across generations by imitative learning. Although transfer of song patterns from adults to juveniles typically occurs via vertical or oblique transmission, there is also evidence of horizontal transmission between juveniles of the same generation. Here, we show that a young male zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) that has been exposed to its father during the sensitive period for song learning can lead a brother, that has never heard the paternal song, to imitate some sounds of the father. Moreover, song similarity between the two brothers was higher than the similarity measured between the paternal song and the song of the brother that had a week-long exposure to the father. We speculate that the phenomenon of within-generation song learning among juveniles may be more widespread than previously thought and that when a juvenile evaluates potential models for imitative learning, a sibling may be as salient as an adult.

  • Received March 19, 2013.
  • Accepted May 21, 2013.
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