Cambridge, Massachusetts – Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a simple rubber-based device that mimics complex birdsongs.
The device uses air blown through a stretched rubber tube to re-create birdsongs found in nature, including those of zebra and Bengalese finches.
The research team was led by L. Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine professor of applied mathematics, of organismic and evolutionary biology, and of physics. He is also a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
The group found that the inherent complexity in bird songs might actually be the result of a simple, controllable instability in the structure of the specialised organ used to create song, known as a syrinx.
Their research suggests that birds may have harnessed the physical properties of a soft material to produce and control their songs; thus, evolution may have found simpler ways to create complex behaviours.