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Developmental stress selectively affects the song control nucleus HVC in the zebra finch brain

journal contribution
posted on 22.11.2004, 00:00 authored by Kate BuchananKate Buchanan, S Leitner, K Spencer, A Goldsmith, C Catchpole
Songbirds sing complex songs as a result of evolution through sexual selection. The evolution of such sexually selected traits requires genetic control, as well as selection on their expression. Song is controlled by a discrete neural pathway in the brain, and song complexity has been shown to correlate with the volume of specific song control nuclei. As such, the development of these nuclei, in particular the high vocal centre (HVC), is thought to be the mechanism controlling signal expression indicating male quality. We tested the hypothesis that early developmental stress selectively affects adult HVC size, compared with other brain nuclei. We did this by raising cross–fostered zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) under stressed and controlled conditions and determining the effect on adult HVC size. Our results confirm the strong influence of environmental conditions, particularly on HVC development, and therefore on the expression of complex songs. The results also show that both environmental and genetic factors affect the development of several brain nuclei, highlighting the developmental plasticity of the songbird brain. In all, these results explain how the complex song repertoires of songbirds can evolve as honest indicators of male quality.

History

Journal

Proceedings of the royal society : B supplement

Volume

271

Issue

1555

Pagination

2381 - 2386

Publisher

The Royal Society Publishing

Location

London, England

ISSN

0962-8452

eISSN

1471-2954

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2004, The Royal Society