Sunday, June 22, 2008

for the bird lovers

Cultural innovation on Rottnest: this academic report sounds very intresting.

'Cultural innovations are commonly noted in animals, but times of development of novel traits are usually unknown. We report here a novel song type arising in a bird population on an offshore island of Western Australia where the time of colonization of the island by the Western Gerygone, Gerygone fusca, is known'.

We can't find many images online of the Gerygone, but here's one on Flickr.

'On the mainland, a single song type is widespread,' the report says. 'On Rottnest Island, many individuals sing a different type of song and a number possess a repertoire of two song types: the standard song shared with the mainland and the novel song type not found on the neighbouring mainland.'

It's a Rotto-only song. How about that. I wonder what the (bird) words are?

'The novel song type found on Rottnest is so different in its syntactical structure that one could easily mistake it for that of a new species. The characteristic song of mainland birds is irregular in the frequencies at which the notes within a song are delivered. The novel song on Rottnest has a highly structured syntax with notes delivered at a strict and repeated sequence of frequencies resulting in a rhythmic musical sound.'

The Triffids spent time on Rotto. We reckon they inspired the Gerygone - which, come to think of it, sounds like a Triffids song or album name.

The Gerygone colonized Rottnest around 1955. 'The new song type apparently developed rapidly by cultural evolution in the last 50 years.'

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