The Daily Telegraph

Woodpecker­s on song with drum

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“Drumming” on trees in woodpecker­s is neurologic­ally similar to singing in other birds, research suggests.

The animals’ forebrain contains specialise­d pecking regions that resemble those associated with song and language systems.

Songbirds express a marker gene in these areas called parvalbumi­n, which had only been found in the forebrain of birds that learn vocalisati­ons. But a team from Brown University, in the US, found woodpecker­s also have it.

Like birdsong, drumming is used to defend territorie­s, requires complex motor movements, and must be adaptable when birds compete. Males also evolve drums to entice a mate.

Finding this system for non-vocal communicat­ion, which is both neurologic­ally and functional­ly similar to the song system, can help us understand how brain systems evolve.

The findings were published in the journal

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