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Social coordination in animal vocal interactions: is there any evidence of turn taking? The example of the European starling

Abstract : Turn-taking in conversation appears to be a common feature in various human cultures and this universality raises questions about its biological basis and evolutionary trajectory. Functional convergence is a widespread phenomenon in evolution, revealing sometimes striking functional similarities between very distant species even though the mechanisms involved may be different. Studies on mammals (including non-human primates) and bird species with different levels of social coordination reveal that temporal and structural regularities in vocal interactions may depend on the species’ social structure. Here we test the hypothesis that turn-taking and associated rules of conversations may be an adaptive response to the requirements of social life, by testing the applicability of turn-taking rules to an animal model, the European starling. Birdsong has for many decades been considered as one of the best models of human language and starling songs have been well described in terms of vocal production and perception. Starlings do have vocal interactions where alternating patterns predominate. Observational and experimental data on vocal interactions reveal that 1) there are indeed clear temporal and structural regularities, 2) the temporal and structural patterning is influenced by the immediate social context, the general social situation, the individual history, and the internal state of the emitter. Comparison of phylogenetically close species of Sturnids reveals that the alternating pattern of vocal interactions varies greatly according to the species’ social structure, suggesting that interactional regularities may have evolved together with social systems. These findings lead to solid bases of discussion on the evolution of communication rules in relation to social evolution. They will be discussed also in terms of processes, at the light of recent neurobiological findings.
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Submitted on : Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 2:23:04 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-01332742, version 1


Laurence Henry, Adrian J. F. K. Craig, Alban Lemasson, Martine Hausberger. Social coordination in animal vocal interactions: is there any evidence of turn taking? The example of the European starling. Rencontres annuelles du GDR d'Ethologie, GDR CNRS 2822 Ethologie et EA4443 LEEC, Oct 2015, Villetaneuse, France. ⟨hal-01332742⟩



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