Bird Culture Innate: Study

Isolated finches develop the same song over time
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted May 4, 2009 2:46 AM CDT
Even in isolation, Zebra finches develop the same mating song over time.   (AP Photo/Science)
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(Newser) – DNA may carry the blueprint for culture, a study of zebra finches has revealed. When raised in isolation, the birds' complex mating song—usually taught by male elders—develops into a harsh clamor. But as their offspring learn the song, they tweak it slightly and recreate the melody within a few generations. "The culture was pretty much encoded," said the study's co-author.

The finding may apply to human language, music, and dance. "We can think about both birdsong and human culture in similar terms," explained an evolutionary biologist. "These culturally transmitted systems must all pass through the filter of biology." One researcher insists the study points to a far more complex interplay between biology and culture than the "tired nature versus nurture" debate.