Comparative bioacoustics I: Birds & Reptiles 

(week 2, 3 ECTS) 

In this module we will review the production, nature, function and evolution of acoustic signals in birds and reptiles. Within the framework of the Mathematical Theory of Communication, we will see how birds code information in their vocalizations. We will see how songbirds learn their songs, and the anatomical basis of their production. We will review acoustic communication in Reptiles. We will see how birds and reptiles localize a sound source. We will emphasize the evolutionary drivers of acoustic communication in birds.


© Nicolas Mathevon

Research talks on bird acoustic communication networks and evolution of communication will expose you directly to current research.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, a successful student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of how bird and reptile acoustic signals are produced, structured and perceived;

  2. Demonstrate an understanding of song learning in songbirds;

  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the evolutionary drivers of acoustic communication in birds.

  4. Demonstrate a good understanding of tools for analysing and synthesizing bird songs.


2022 Provisional Schedule

Monday 19th September

Morning: Information coding in bird sound signals

Afternoon: Strategies for encoding public and private information in sound signals

Assignment of scientific papers that will be presented on Friday (1/student).


Tuesday 20th September

Morning: Referential communication in birds. Song learning in songbirds

Afternoon Practical: Sound production in birds.

Wednesday 21th September

Morning: Sound localisation in birds and reptiles.

Afternoon: Acoustic communication in crocodiles; Sound categorization in crocodiles; ENES lab visit.

Thursday 22th September

Morning: Evolution of bird signals.

Acoustic developmental programming: how prenatal sounds affect development.

Afternoon: Sexual selection on bird acoustic signals.

Neurophysiological basis of songbird acoustic communication.


Friday 23th September

Oral presentations of scientific papers (tutored).

Organiser: Nicolas Mathevon

Guest speakers (provisional list):  Julie Elie, Benjamin Freeman, Livio Favaro, Mark Hauber, Ole Larsen, Mylène Mariette, Dan Mennill, Leo Papet, Mark Hauber, Leo Papet, Toshitaka Suzuki, Frédéric Theunissen, Julie Thevenet.


The final mark will be based on the oral presentation of a scientific paper (duration = 20 min + 5 min questions).


© Nicolas Mathevon


© Nicolas Mathevon


© Nicolas Mathevon

© Nicolas Mathevon