Club-winged songbird’s vibrating feathers produce courtship song

November 11th, 2009 - 12:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 11 (ANI): Club-winged manakins might not use their specialised feathers for flying, but when it comes to courting a potential mate they can be music to the ears, say researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Sr. Kimberly Bostwick said that the irregular structure of the heavy, specialised feathers is responsible for creating the club-winged manakin’s unique high-pitched courtship song, reports New Scientist.

The songbird (Machaeropterus deliciosus) uses these feathers for stridulation, a rubbing mechanism commonly used by insects such as crickets.

One feather on each wing has seven ridges along its central vane.

The stiff, curved tip of an adjacent feather strikes the ridges every time the bird raises it wings over its back and shakes its feathers.

The repeated striking causes adjacent clubbed feathers to vibrate at high speed.

The mechanism was first proposed after viewing slow-motion footage of male courting behaviour.

To know of the vibrations produced the manakin’s mating song, study researchers shook the birds’ seven club-shaped secondary feathers at varying rates.

Vibrating the sixth and seventh feathers together at 1500 cycles per second produced the correct tone.

The other feathers did not produce the noise, suggesting they are instead responsible for radiating the sound. Although many insects do this, manakins are unique among vertebrates in using stridulation, said Bostwick.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. (ANI)

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