Cultural evolution of birdsong: how environments help shape the dawn chorus

Event details


Date & time

Monday 05 December 2022


Seminar Room F (3.304), Coombs Building and Online via Zoom


Dr Dominique Potvin


CHL Communicate

Additional links

Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series by the School of Culture, History & Language

This event will be hosted in hybrid format, with both online and in-person attendance options. Online guests will receive Zoom details once they register for the seminar via Eventbrite.


Passerines, or true songbirds, are one of the only groups of animals that are able – and indeed are obligated – to learn how and what to vocalise such that they can communicate effectively with their own species. Birdsong, therefore, is shaped not only by passerines’ morphology and genetics, but in large part by their environment, both social and physical. Socially, songbirds engage in tutoring to pass on song components to one another, and song is also developed by young birds listening to other surrounding conspecifics communicate with one another. Physically, environmental factors can affect what sounds are transmitted most effectively from sender to receiver, thus shaping what individuals can hear and therefore what they learn. Over time, these factors result in geographic differences in songs within species, akin to accents or dialects, that can be detected and analysed in similar ways as other evolutionary processes. I use different animal models to investigate such patterns especially in modern contexts such as urbanisation, to understand how human environments are acting as selective pressures on birds’ songs, and how these pressures are shaping the vocal cultures of avian species

About the Speaker

Dr Dominique Potvin is senior lecturer in animal ecology at the University if the Sunshine Coast. Her research focuses on the sources of selection contributing to the evolution of vocalizations, especially birdsong, and the impact of anthropogenic activities such as urbanization, noise and language use, on vertebrate populations. Dominique takes an interdisciplinary approach incorporating genetics, bioacoustics, ecology, physiology and neuroscience.

This is a public seminar and will be recorded.

The recording will be made available after the event through the Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series page.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster