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Breeding Choruses and Cocktail Parties: A Frog’s Perspective on Hearing in a Noisy World – A presentation by Mark Bee, January 29, 2009

January 14, 2009IASEvents, Video and Audio0

Mark Bee’s research takes an integrative, comparative, and multi-disciplinary approach that draws on questions and methods from behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, comparative psychology, human psychoacoustics, and neurophysiology to investigate animal behavior, in general, and animal acoustic communication, in particular. He is a member of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota.

This talk is also available as an audio download (.mp3 – 46.2 MB).

Professor Bee discusses recent and ongoing research in his lab that aims to understand how female gray treefrogs perceive male mating calls in the noisy environment of a breeding chorus. There are important health and technological considerations associated with understanding how auditory systems detect communication signals in noise. The long-term goal of his research is to understand the basic mechanisms that vertebrate auditory systems use to perceive vocal communication signals in noisy social environments. His approach combines field and laboratory studies that take advantage of the natural behaviors of breeding gray treefrogs to achieve this goal. Frogs are ideal models for understanding vocal communication in noisy social environments. During their breeding seasons, male frogs form dense aggregations (“choruses”) and produce acoustic signals (“mating calls”) to attract females. Mating calls are important in species recognition and sexual selection. These signals are notable for being very loud. In a noisy chorus comprising dozens or hundreds of loudly calling males, female frogs are nevertheless able to detect, recognize, localize and discriminate among the calls of males of their own species. Hence, female frogs have evolved to solve a biological equivalent of the human “cocktail party problem,” which refers to our difficulty in understanding speech in multi-talked conditions.

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