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Keywords:

  • evolution;
  • learning;
  • parrots;
  • auditory inputs;
  • telencephalon

Abstract

Previous studies concluded that parrots and oscine songbirds, two taxa that have independently evolved the ability to learn vocalizations, possess similar neural circuits for vocal control. These investigations suggested, however, that the vocal control systems of parrots and songbirds may also differ in several respects. Most importantly, auditory inputs to the vocal control system derive from Field L in songbirds, but this area does not appear to project to the vocal control system in parrots. The principal aims in the present study were, therefore, to determine (1) exactly how similar the vocal control system in budgerigars is to that in songbirds and (2) whether the vocal control system in budgerigars receives auditory inputes from areas other than Field L.

Biotinylated and fluorescently labeled dextrans were injected into five telencephalic nuclei of the vocal control system in budgerigars and into the physiologically identified auditory portions of the frontal neostriatum and nucleus basalis. The results indicate that the forebrain voca; control system in budgerigars is only superficially similar to that in songbirds. Many of the vocal control nuclei differ between the two taxa in both cytoarchitecture and connections. The nuclei in budgerigars that are comparable to those of the accessory loop of the vocal control system in songbirds, for example, do not form an accessory loop in budgerigars. The vocal control systems in the two taxa differ most significantly in the source of their auditory inputs. In songbirds, auditory information is conveyed to the vocal control system via Field L, whereas, in budgerigars, the auditory inputs to the vocal control system derive from nucleus basalis and the frontal neostratum. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that the midbrain and medullary vocal control pathways are homologous across all birds, but that most of the vocal control circuits in the forebrain have probably evolved independently in parrots and songbirds. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.