Nothing has a voicebox quite like a bird's, but cats, mice, and crocs show some similarities
Date: September 24, 2018
Source: Field Museum
Birds' voiceboxes are in their chests instead of their throats like mammals and reptiles. Scientists aren't sure how or why birds evolved these unique voiceboxes, but a new study sheds some light on how they came about. Similarities in the windpipes of birds, crocodiles, cats, mice, and salamanders suggest that birds' weird voiceboxes might have arisen from a windpipe reinforcement. From this, scientists can learn about the sounds bird ancestors -- dinosaurs -- made.
Birds sing from the heart. While other four-limbed animals like mammals and reptiles make sounds with voiceboxes in their throats, birds' chirps originate in a unique vocal organ called the syrinx, located in their chests. No other animals have a syrinx, and scientists aren't sure how or when it evolved. In a new study in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, an interdisciplinary team of developmental biologists, evolutionary morphologists, and physiologists examined the windpipes of birds, crocodiles, salamanders, mice, and cats to learn more about how syrinxes evolved. Their findings seem to confirm: the syrinx is an evolutionary odd duck. But it might have arisen from a reinforcement at the bottom of the windpipe that we still see in many other animals.