Integrative Biology 24, Section 1

How and Why Do Birds Sing (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor George Bentley
Tuesday 11:00-12:00, 4110 Valley Life Sciences Building, Class number: 21571

Do you ever wonder why some birds sing and others just call? Would you like to know how songbirds produce such melodious tunes? What about the dawn chorus? Sexual attraction? Aggression? It's just the day-to-day life of songbirds. Come and learn about the anatomy and physiology of birdsong, from the specialized organs to highly evolved brains. Find out how bird song can cause hormones to surge. This seminar will cover the hows and whys of vocal communication in birds with an emphasis on what classic and cutting-edge research has taught us.

Instructor Bio

George Bentley received his B.Sc. in biology (1993), and his Ph.D. in zoology (1996) at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Following receipt of his doctorate, Dr. Bentley joined the Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Group at Johns Hopkins University, initially as a postdoctoral fellow and later as an associate research scientist. In January 2000, Dr. Bentley moved to Professor John Wingfield's laboratory at the University of Washington as a research associate in the Departments of Psychology and Biology. Dr. Bentley moved to Berkeley in June of 2005, where he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and his lab focuses on how the brain detects environmental cues and turns them into hormonal signals. These signals in turn affect the behavior and physiology of the organism itself, or organisms to which the behavior is directed. For example, a male bird's song can cause a female to solicit copulation and change her hormonal status. Exactly how the brain performs this feat is largely unknown, but birds are an excellent model for this type of research as they have extravagant auditory and visual displays. The research in Dr. Bentley's lab is mostly performed on birds, but is not limited to this vertebrate class. Current projects in the lab involve sheep, horses, rats, mice, hamsters and humans; many of these projects are in collaboration with other labs around the world (Japan, New Zealand, Germany, United Kingdom). Undergraduates are especially encouraged to get involved in active research projects. Currently, there are nine undergraduates working in the Bentley lab on neuroendocrine mechanisms of regulation of reproduction and on the neural basis of song behavior.

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