AC - Vocal Learning in Birds, and paralles to human language acquisition.
From insects to primates, animals communicate in a variety of ways using signal modalities such as vibration, vocalizations, colors, scents, and gestures. This course focuses on the evolution of communication signals with an emphasis on both signal function and mechanism. We will explore communication in various animal groups, but examine vocal learning in birds in depth as a focal example in this class. We will investigate the pattern of song learning and compare this process to human language acquisition. Topics will range from communication theory, signal transmission, and the cultural evolution of learned signals (to name a few). Topics will also cover debates such as signal reliability and investigate when animals may be bluffing, and when evolution has led to honest signals. Students will be responsible for weekly reflections on primary literature readings, two in-class presentations of a short topic, and one final project and presentation. This is an advanced course, with the expectation of building on the basic tenants of Animal Behavior learned previously. Prerequisite: one prior course in Animal Behavior.