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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.


2023 Schedule

Monday 18th September

9-11 am: Information coding in bird sound signals (N.Mathevon)

11-12 am: Assignment of scientific papers to be presented on Friday

2-4 pm: Strategies for encoding public and private information in sound signals (O.Larsen)

Tuesday 19th September


10.30-12.30: Multivariate statistical analysis of sound signals (L.Favaro)

2-4 pm: Sound production in birds (L.Favaro)

Wednesday 20th September

8.30-11.30 am: How to decode the meaning of acoustic signals: Adaptative eavesdropping in host-parasite vocalizations (M.Hauber)

1-2.15 pm: Acoustic communication in crocodiles (N.Mathevon)

2.15-3.15 pm: Sound categorization in crocodiles; ENES lab visit (J.Thévenet)

3.45-5.15 pm: Vocal learning in wild birds (D.Mennill)

​Thursday 21st September

8.30-9h45 am: Song development and signal evolution in birds (N.Mathevon)

10-12 am: Acoustic developmental programming: how prenatal sounds affect development (M.Mariette)

2-5 pm: Sound localization (L.Papet)

6.30-8.30 pm: The neuroethology of vocal communication in songbirds with zebra finch as an example (J.Elie, F.Theunissen)

Friday 22nd September

Starting 9 am: Oral presentations of scientific papers (exam).

Organiser: Nicolas Mathevon

Guest speakers:  Julie Elie, Livio Favaro, Mark Hauber, Ole Larsen, Mylène Mariette, Dan Mennill, Leo Papet, 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

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