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Zebra finch as a research model


I have small birds called zebra finch.
Zebra finch is native to Australia and is as common as Japanese sparrow there.

Zebra finch belongs to the songbird family, which can sing complex songs.
In the 1950s, research began on the process by which songbirds such as canaries, sparrows, and zebra finches learn to sing. It has become clear that there are many similarities with how human babies learn a language.

Songbird chicks first learn the song of an adult bird by ear, imitate it to produce a vocal sound, and then listen to their own voice to modify it.
At present, only some mammals (humans, cetaceans, bats, and African elephants) and some birds (parrots, parakeets, hummingbirds, and songbirds) are known to be able to learn this type of vocalization.

In addition, zebra finch is a model for research on sociality and bonding, as it establishes an ongoing relationship with paired individuals, and thus has more in common with humans.

Another interesting study on vocal learning in zebra finch is this.
It was found that the chicks of zebra finch were not very interested in songs played over the speakers, but when they heard a song face to face, they reacted as if they were struck by lightning and began learning to pass on the song.
The same is true of language learning in human infants, where learning pronunciation on video is said to be less effective than face-to-face learning.
Mr.Masashi Tanaka, who conducted the research, poses the question of whether the human brain also has “neural circuits that are only active face-to-face” and whether it is still possible to develop culture and society in a world where online and other forms of remote communication have become the norm.
And then, going further from there, he is also working on an experiment: “Can birds learn human culture?”
An experiment to pass on human culture to zebra finch.
It will be exciting to see how and to what extent the experiment is progressing (has the paper been published yet?).

【Works Cited, Websites Cited】
■”National Geographic Japan Edition January 2018″ (Nikkei National Geographic Inc., 2018)

■Kazuhiro Wada, “What’s Happening in the Brain When a Little Bird Chirps?” (Biohistory Research Institute website) https://www.brh.co.jp/publication/journal/070/research_2

■Masashi Tanaka, “Culture, Society, and the ‘Dense’ Relationship between the Brain” (Waseda Weekly Website) https://www.waseda.jp/inst/weekly/news/2021/07/16/89462/