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Abstract

The canary (Serinus canaria) vocal organ, the syrinx, has two separate sound sources, one in the cranial end of each bronchus. Previous investigations of whether song syllables are produced unilaterally or bilaterally have provided two contradictory results, as one researcher suggested that almost all syllables are produced by the left side of the syrinx alone, whereas another researcher suggested that both sides contribute similarly to all syllables. Our experiments, which involved unilateral bronchus plugging followed later by denervation of the ipsilateral syringeal muscles, attempted to resolve this disagreement. The males with right bronchus plugs, singing on the left side of the syrinx alone, produced nearly normal songs, whereas the birds with left bronchus plugs, singing on the right side, sang quite poorly. Interpretation of these data is difficult because it is not clear how syringeal function would be affected if the airflow rate through the intact side is increased above normal, nor is it known if the bird can compensate for bronchus occlusion. Nonetheless, we suggest that in male canaries most syllables are normally sung by the left side alone, with some syllables being produced by the right side alone and some being sung by both sides together. Right nerve section had little effect on the right-bronchus-plugged males' ability to sing, but the repertoires of the left-plugged males were altered after left nerve section, indicating the possibility that signals carried by the left nerve exert an influence on the contralateral side.