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Animal Innovation$
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Simon M. Reader and Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198526223

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198526223.001.0001

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Is Innovation in Bird Song Adaptive?

Is Innovation in Bird Song Adaptive?

(p.117) Chapter 5 Is Innovation in Bird Song Adaptive?
Animal Innovation

Peter J. B. Slater

Robert F. Lachlan

Oxford University Press

This chapter reveals bird song as the classic case where individual animals learn their behaviour from others, usually young birds from adults, so that particular songs are passed on from one individual to another through cultural transmission. This chapter outlines the sorts of changes that may take place, at the level of elements, song types and repertoires, and also several distinct ways in which novel songs may arise in a population (immigration, innovation, invention, and improvisation). Much of the evidence is that such changes are random, and that their consequences are either neutral or negative, but some cases have been described where there have been progressive changes in song within a population. These are likely to stem from individuals adapting their songs to match a changing physical or social environment. The individual that generates variety and stands out from the crowd may also benefit through sexual selection, with a tension between innovation and conformity.

Keywords:   bird song, behaviour, cultural transmission, immigration, innovation, invention, improvisation, conformity

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