Displaying 1 - 30 of 30
  • Ravignani, A., & Garcia, M. (2022). A cross-species framework to identify vocal learning abilities in mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 377: 20200394. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0394.

    Abstract

    Vocal production learning (VPL) is the experience-driven ability to produce novel vocal signals through imitation or modification of existing vocalizations. A parallel strand of research investigates acoustic allometry, namely how information about body size is conveyed by acoustic signals. Recently, we proposed that deviation from acoustic allometry principles as a result of sexual selection may have been an intermediate step towards the evolution of vocal learning abilities in mammals. Adopting a more hypothesis-neutral stance, here we perform phylogenetic regressions and other analyses further testing a potential link between VPL and being an allometric outlier. We find that multiple species belonging to VPL clades deviate from allometric scaling but in the opposite direction to that expected from size exaggeration mechanisms. In other words, our correlational approach finds an association between VPL and being an allometric outlier. However, the direction of this association, contra our original hypothesis, may indicate that VPL did not necessarily emerge via sexual selection for size exaggeration: VPL clades show higher vocalization frequencies than expected. In addition, our approach allows us to identify species with potential for VPL abilities: we hypothesize that those outliers from acoustic allometry lying above the regression line may be VPL species. Our results may help better understand the cross-species diversity, variability and aetiology of VPL, which among other things is a key underpinning of speech in our species. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Voice modulation: from origin and mechanism to social impact (Part II)’.

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  • Fink, B., Bläsing, B., Ravignani, A., & Shackelford, T. K. (2021). Evolution and functions of human dance. Evolution and Human Behavior, 42(4), 351-360. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2021.01.003.

    Abstract

    Dance is ubiquitous among humans and has received attention from several disciplines. Ethnographic documentation suggests that dance has a signaling function in social interaction. It can influence mate preferences and facilitate social bonds. Research has provided insights into the proximate mechanisms of dance, individually or when dancing with partners or in groups. Here, we review dance research from an evolutionary perspective. We propose that human dance evolved from ordinary (non-communicative) movements to communicate socially relevant information accurately. The need for accurate social signaling may have accompanied increases in group size and population density. Because of its complexity in production and display, dance may have evolved as a vehicle for expressing social and cultural information. Mating-related qualities and motives may have been the predominant information derived from individual dance movements, whereas group dance offers the opportunity for the exchange of socially relevant content, for coordinating actions among group members, for signaling coalitional strength, and for stabilizing group structures. We conclude that, despite the cultural diversity in dance movements and contexts, the primary communicative functions of dance may be the same across societies.
  • Gordon, R. L., Ravignani, A., Hyland Bruno, J., Robinson, C. M., Scartozzi, A., Embalabala, R., Niarchou, M., 23andMe Research Team, Cox, N. J., & Creanza, N. (2021). Linking the genomic signatures of human beat synchronization and learned song in birds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200329. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0329.

    Abstract

    The development of rhythmicity is foundational to communicative and social behaviours in humans and many other species, and mechanisms of synchrony could be conserved across species. The goal of the current paper is to explore evolutionary hypotheses linking vocal learning and beat synchronization through genomic approaches, testing the prediction that genetic underpinnings of birdsong also contribute to the aetiology of human interactions with musical beat structure. We combined state-of-the-art-genomic datasets that account for underlying polygenicity of these traits: birdsong genome-wide transcriptomics linked to singing in zebra finches, and a human genome-wide association study of beat synchronization. Results of competitive gene set analysis revealed that the genetic architecture of human beat synchronization is significantly enriched for birdsong genes expressed in songbird Area X (a key nucleus for vocal learning, and homologous to human basal ganglia). These findings complement ethological and neural evidence of the relationship between vocal learning and beat synchronization, supporting a framework of some degree of common genomic substrates underlying rhythm-related behaviours in two clades, humans and songbirds (the largest evolutionary radiation of vocal learners). Future cross-species approaches investigating the genetic underpinnings of beat synchronization in a broad evolutionary context are discussed.

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  • Greenfield, M. D., Honing, H., Kotz, S. A., & Ravignani, A. (Eds.). (2021). Synchrony and rhythm interaction: From the brain to behavioural ecology [Special Issue]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376.
  • Greenfield, M. D., Honing, H., Kotz, S. A., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Synchrony and rhythm interaction: From the brain to behavioural ecology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200324. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0324.

    Abstract

    This theme issue assembles current studies that ask how and why precise synchronization and related forms of rhythm interaction are expressed in a wide range of behaviour. The studies cover human activity, with an emphasis on music, and social behaviour, reproduction and communication in non-human animals. In most cases, the temporally aligned rhythms have short—from several seconds down to a fraction of a second—periods and are regulated by central nervous system pacemakers, but interactions involving rhythms that are 24 h or longer and originate in biological clocks also occur. Across this spectrum of activities, species and time scales, empirical work and modelling suggest that synchrony arises from a limited number of coupled-oscillator mechanisms with which individuals mutually entrain. Phylogenetic distribution of these common mechanisms points towards convergent evolution. Studies of animal communication indicate that many synchronous interactions between the signals of neighbouring individuals are specifically favoured by selection. However, synchronous displays are often emergent properties of entrainment between signalling individuals, and in some situations, the very signallers who produce a display might not gain any benefit from the collective timing of their production.
  • De Gregorio, C., Valente, D., Raimondi, T., Torti, V., Miaretsoa, L., Friard, O., Giacoma, C., Ravignani, A., & Gamba, M. (2021). Categorical rhythms in a singing primate. Current Biology, 31, R1363-R1380. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.032.

    Abstract

    What are the origins of musical rhythm? One approach to the biology and evolution of music consists in finding common musical traits across species. These similarities allow biomusicologists to infer when and how musical traits appeared in our species1 . A parallel approach to the biology and evolution of music focuses on finding statistical universals in human music2 . These include rhythmic features that appear above chance across musical cultures. One such universal is the production of categorical rhythms3 , defined as those where temporal intervals between note onsets are distributed categorically rather than uniformly2 ,4 ,5 . Prominent rhythm categories include those with intervals related by small integer ratios, such as 1:1 (isochrony) and 1:2, which translates as some notes being twice as long as their adjacent ones. In humans, universals are often defined in relation to the beat, a top-down cognitive process of inferring a temporal regularity from a complex musical scene1 . Without assuming the presence of the beat in other animals, one can still investigate its downstream products, namely rhythmic categories with small integer ratios detected in recorded signals. Here we combine the comparative and statistical universals approaches, testing the hypothesis that rhythmic categories and small integer ratios should appear in species showing coordinated group singing3 . We find that a lemur species displays, in its coordinated songs, the isochronous and 1:2 rhythm categories seen in human music, showing that such categories are not, among mammals, unique to humans3

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  • Henry, M. J., Cook, P. F., de Reus, K., Nityananda, V., Rouse, A. A., & Kotz, S. A. (2021). An ecological approach to measuring synchronization abilities across the animal kingdom. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200336. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0336.

    Abstract

    In this perspective paper, we focus on the study of synchronization abilities across the animal kingdom. We propose an ecological approach to studying nonhuman animal synchronization that begins from observations about when, how and why an animal might synchronize spontaneously with natural environmental rhythms. We discuss what we consider to be the most important, but thus far largely understudied, temporal, physical, perceptual and motivational constraints that must be taken into account when designing experiments to test synchronization in nonhuman animals. First and foremost, different species are likely to be sensitive to and therefore capable of synchronizing at different timescales. We also argue that it is fruitful to consider the latent flexibility of animal synchronization. Finally, we discuss the importance of an animal's motivational state for showcasing synchronization abilities. We demonstrate that the likelihood that an animal can successfully synchronize with an environmental rhythm is context-dependent and suggest that the list of species capable of synchronization is likely to grow when tested with ecologically honest, species-tuned experiments.
  • Hoeksema, N., Verga, L., Mengede, J., Van Roessel, C., Villanueva, S., Salazar-Casals, A., Rubio-Garcia, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200252. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0252.

    Abstract

    Comparative studies of vocal learning and vocal non-learning animals can increase our understanding of the neurobiology and evolution of vocal learning and human speech. Mammalian vocal learning is understudied: most research has either focused on vocal learning in songbirds or its absence in non-human primates. Here we focus on a highly promising model species for the neurobiology of vocal learning: grey seals. We provide a neuroanatomical atlas (based on dissected brain slices and magnetic resonance images), a labelled MRI template, a 3D model with volumetric measurements of brain regions, and histological cortical stainings. Four main features of the grey seal brain stand out. (1) It is relatively big and highly convoluted. (2) It hosts a relatively large temporal lobe and cerebellum, structures which could support developed timing abilities and acoustic processing. (3) The cortex is similar to humans in thickness and shows the expected six-layered mammalian structure. (4) Expression of FoxP2 - a gene involved in vocal learning and spoken language - is present in deeper layers of the cortex. Our results could facilitate future studies targeting the neural and genetic underpinnings of mammalian vocal learning, thus bridging the research gap from songbirds to humans and non-human primates.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
  • Ravignani, A., & De Boer, B. (2021). Joint origins of speech and music: Testing evolutionary hypotheses on modern humans. Semiotica, 239, 169-176. doi:10.1515/sem-2019-0048.

    Abstract

    How music and speech evolved is a mystery. Several hypotheses on their origins, including one on their joint origins, have been put forward but rarely tested. Here we report and comment on the first experiment testing the hypothesis that speech and music bifurcated from a common system. We highlight strengths of the reported experiment, point out its relatedness to animal work, and suggest three alternative interpretations of its results. We conclude by sketching a future empirical programme extending this work.
  • Ravignani, A. (2021). Isochrony, vocal learning and the acquisition of rhythm and melody. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44: e88. doi:10.1017/S0140525X20001478.

    Abstract

    A cross-species perspective can extend and provide testable predictions for Savage et al.’s framework. Rhythm and melody, I argue, could bootstrap each other in the evolution of musicality. Isochrony may function as a temporal grid to support rehearsing and learning modulated, pitched vocalizations. Once this melodic plasticity is acquired, focus can shift back to refining rhythm processing and beat induction.
  • de Reus, K., Soma, M., Anichini, M., Gamba, M., de Heer Kloots, M., Lense, M., Bruno, J. H., Trainor, L., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Rhythm in dyadic interactions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200337. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0337.

    Abstract

    This review paper discusses rhythmic dyadic interactions in social and sexual contexts. We report rhythmic interactions during communication within dyads, as found in humans, non-human primates, non-primate mammals, birds, anurans and insects. Based on the patterns observed, we infer adaptive explanations for the observed rhythm interactions and identify knowledge gaps. Across species, the social environment during ontogeny is a key factor in shaping adult signal repertoires and timing mechanisms used to regulate interactions. The degree of temporal coordination is influenced by the dynamic and strength of the dyadic interaction. Most studies of temporal structure in interactive signals mainly focus on one modality (acoustic and visual); we suggest more work should be performed on multimodal signals. Multidisciplinary approaches combining cognitive science, ethology and ecology should shed more light on the exact timing mechanisms involved. Taken together, rhythmic signalling behaviours are widespread and critical in regulating social interactions across taxa.
  • Torres Borda, L., Jadoul, Y., Rasilo, H., Salazar Casals, A., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Vocal plasticity in harbour seal pups. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376(1840): 20200456. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0456.

    Abstract

    Vocal plasticity can occur in response to environmental and biological factors, including conspecifics' vocalizations and noise. Pinnipeds are one of the few mammalian groups capable of vocal learning, and are therefore relevant to understanding the evolution of vocal plasticity in humans and other animals. Here, we investigate the vocal plasticity of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), a species with vocal learning abilities observed in adulthood but not puppyhood. To evaluate early mammalian vocal development, we tested 1–3 weeks-old seal pups. We tailored noise playbacks to this species and age to induce seal pups to shift their fundamental frequency (f0), rather than adapt call amplitude or temporal characteristics. We exposed individual pups to low- and high-intensity bandpass-filtered noise, which spanned—and masked—their typical range of f0; simultaneously, we recorded pups' spontaneous calls. Unlike most mammals, pups modified their vocalizations by lowering their f0 in response to increased noise. This modulation was precise and adapted to the particular experimental manipulation of the noise condition. In addition, higher levels of noise induced less dispersion around the mean f0, suggesting that pups may have actively focused their phonatory efforts to target lower frequencies. Noise did not seem to affect call amplitude. However, one seal showed two characteristics of the Lombard effect known for human speech in noise: significant increase in call amplitude and flattening of spectral tilt. Our relatively low noise levels may have favoured f0 modulation while inhibiting amplitude adjustments. This lowering of f0 is unusual, as most animals commonly display no such f0 shift. Our data represent a relatively rare case in mammalian neonates, and have implications for the evolution of vocal plasticity and vocal learning across species, including humans.

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  • Varola*, M., Verga*, L., Sroka, M., Villanueva, S., Charrier, I., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Can harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) discriminate familiar conspecific calls after long periods of separation? PeerJ, 9: e12431. doi:10.7717/peerj.12431.

    Abstract

    * - indicates joint first authorship - The ability to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar calls may play a key role in pinnipeds’ communication and survival, as in the case of mother-pup interactions. Vocal discrimination abilities have been suggested to be more developed in pinniped species with the highest selective pressure such as the otariids; yet, in some group-living phocids, such as harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), mothers are also able to recognize their pup’s voice. Conspecifics’ vocal recognition in pups has never been investigated; however, the repeated interaction occurring between pups within the breeding season suggests that long-term vocal discrimination may occur. Here we explored this hypothesis by presenting three rehabilitated seal pups with playbacks of vocalizations from unfamiliar or familiar pups. It is uncommon for seals to come into rehabilitation for a second time in their lifespan, and this study took advantage of these rare cases. A simple visual inspection of the data plots seemed to show more reactions, and of longer duration, in response to familiar as compared to unfamiliar playbacks in two out of three pups. However, statistical analyses revealed no significant difference between the experimental conditions. We also found no significant asymmetry in orientation (left vs. right) towards familiar and unfamiliar sounds. While statistics do not support the hypothesis of an established ability to discriminate familiar vocalizations from unfamiliar ones in harbor seal pups, further investigations with a larger sample size are needed to confirm or refute this hypothesis.

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  • Verga, L., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Strange seal sounds: Claps, slaps, and multimodal pinniped rhythms. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 9: 644497. doi:10.3389/fevo.2021.644497.
  • Verga, L., Schwartze, M., Stapert, S., Winkens, I., & Kotz, S. A. (2021). Dysfunctional timing in traumatic brain injury patients: Co-occurrence of cognitive, motor, and perceptual deficits. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 731898. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.731898.

    Abstract

    Timing is an essential part of human cognition and of everyday life activities, such as walking or holding a conversation. Previous studies showed that traumatic brain injury (TBI) often affects cognitive functions such as processing speed and time-sensitive abilities, causing long-term sequelae as well as daily impairments. However, the existing evidence on timing capacities in TBI is mostly limited to perception and the processing of isolated intervals. It is therefore open whether the observed deficits extend to motor timing and to continuous dynamic tasks that more closely match daily life activities. The current study set out to answer these questions by assessing audio motor timing abilities and their relationship with cognitive functioning in a group of TBI patients (n=15) and healthy matched controls. We employed a comprehensive set of tasks aiming at testing timing abilities across perception and production and from single intervals to continuous auditory sequences. In line with previous research, we report functional impairments in TBI patients concerning cognitive processing speed and perceptual timing. Critically, these deficits extended to motor timing: The ability to adjust to tempo changes in an auditory pacing sequence was impaired in TBI patients, and this motor timing deficit covaried with measures of processing speed. These findings confirm previous evidence on perceptual and cognitive timing deficits resulting from TBI and provide first evidence for comparable deficits in motor behavior. This suggests basic co-occurring perceptual and motor timing impairments that may factor into a wide range of daily activities. Our results thus place TBI into the wider range of pathologies with well-documented timing deficits (such as Parkinson’s disease) and encourage the search for novel timing-based therapeutic interventions (e.g., employing dynamic and/or musical stimuli) with high transfer potential to everyday life activities.

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  • Verhoef, T., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Melodic universals emerge or are sustained through cultural evolution. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 668300. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.668300.

    Abstract

    To understand why music is structured the way it is, we need an explanation that accounts for both the universality and variability found in musical traditions. Here we test whether statistical universals that have been identified for melodic structures in music can emerge as a result of cultural adaptation to human biases through iterated learning. We use data from an experiment in which artificial whistled systems, where sounds were produced with a slide whistle, were learned by human participants and transmitted multiple times from person to person. These sets of whistled signals needed to be memorized and recalled and the reproductions of one participant were used as the input set for the next. We tested for the emergence of seven different melodic features, such as discrete pitches, motivic patterns, or phrase repetition, and found some evidence for the presence of most of these statistical universals. We interpret this as promising evidence that, similarly to rhythmic universals, iterated learning experiments can also unearth melodic statistical universals. More, ideally cross-cultural, experiments are nonetheless needed. Simulating the cultural transmission of artificial proto-musical systems can help unravel the origins of universal tendencies in musical structures.
  • Anichini, M., De Heer Kloots, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Interactive rhythms in the wild, in the brain, and in silico. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(3), 170-175. doi:10.1037/cep0000224.

    Abstract

    There are some historical divisions in methods, rationales, and purposes between studies on comparative cognition and behavioural ecology. In turn, the interaction between these two branches and studies from mathematics, computation and neuroscience is not usual. In this short piece, we attempt to build bridges among these disciplines. We present a series of interconnected vignettes meant to illustrate how a more interdisciplinary approach looks like when successful, and its advantages. Concretely, we focus on a recent topic, namely animal rhythms in interaction, studied under different approaches. We showcase 5 research efforts, which we believe successfully link 5 particular Scientific areas of rhythm research conceptualized as: Social neuroscience, Detailed rhythmic quantification, Ontogeny, Computational approaches and Spontaneous interactions. Our suggestions will hopefully spur a ‘Comparative rhythms in interaction’ field, which can integrate and capitalize on knowledge from zoology, comparative psychology, neuroscience, and computation.
  • De Boer, B., Thompson, B., Ravignani, A., & Boeckx, C. (2020). Evolutionary dynamics do not motivate a single-mutant theory of human language. Scientific Reports, 10: 451. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-57235-8.

    Abstract

    One of the most controversial hypotheses in cognitive science is the Chomskyan evolutionary conjecture that language arose instantaneously in humans through a single mutation. Here we analyze the evolutionary dynamics implied by this hypothesis, which has never been formalized before. The hypothesis supposes the emergence and fixation of a single mutant (capable of the syntactic operation Merge) during a narrow historical window as a result of frequency-independent selection under a huge fitness advantage in a population of an effective size no larger than ~15 000 individuals. We examine this proposal by combining diffusion analysis and extreme value theory to derive a probabilistic formulation of its dynamics. We find that although a macro-mutation is much more likely to go to fixation if it occurs, it is much more unlikely a priori than multiple mutations with smaller fitness effects. The most likely scenario is therefore one where a medium number of mutations with medium fitness effects accumulate. This precise analysis of the probability of mutations occurring and going to fixation has not been done previously in the context of the evolution of language. Our results cast doubt on any suggestion that evolutionary reasoning provides an independent rationale for a single-mutant theory of language.

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  • Garcia, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Acoustic allometry and vocal learning in mammals. Biology Letters, 16: 20200081. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2020.0081.

    Abstract

    Acoustic allometry is the study of how animal vocalisations reflect their body size. A key aim of this research is to identify outliers to acoustic allometry principles and pinpoint the evolutionary origins of such outliers. A parallel strand of research investigates species capable of vocal learning, the experience-driven ability to produce novel vocal signals through imitation or modification of existing vocalisations. Modification of vocalizations is a common feature found when studying both acoustic allometry and vocal learning. Yet, these two fields have only been investigated separately to date. Here, we review and connect acoustic allometry and vocal learning across mammalian clades, combining perspectives from bioacoustics, anatomy and evolutionary biology. Based on this, we hypothesize that, as a precursor to vocal learning, some species might have evolved the capacity for volitional vocal modulation via sexual selection for ‘dishonest’ signalling. We provide preliminary support for our hypothesis by showing significant associations between allometric deviation and vocal learning in a dataset of 164 mammals. Our work offers a testable framework for future empirical research linking allometric principles with the evolution of vocal learning.
  • Garcia, M., Theunissen, F., Sèbe, F., Clavel, J., Ravignani, A., Marin-Cudraz, T., Fuchs, J., & Mathevon, N. (2020). Evolution of communication signals and information during species radiation. Nature Communications, 11: 4970. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-18772-3.

    Abstract

    Communicating species identity is a key component of many animal signals. However, whether selection for species recognition systematically increases signal diversity during clade radiation remains debated. Here we show that in woodpecker drumming, a rhythmic signal used during mating and territorial defense, the amount of species identity information encoded remained stable during woodpeckers’ radiation. Acoustic analyses and evolutionary reconstructions show interchange among six main drumming types despite strong phylogenetic contingencies, suggesting evolutionary tinkering of drumming structure within a constrained acoustic space. Playback experiments and quantification of species discriminability demonstrate sufficient signal differentiation to support species recognition in local communities. Finally, we only find character displacement in the rare cases where sympatric species are also closely related. Overall, our results illustrate how historical contingencies and ecological interactions can promote conservatism in signals during a clade radiation without impairing the effectiveness of information transfer relevant to inter-specific discrimination.
  • Geambasu, A., Toron, L., Ravignani, A., & Levelt, C. C. (2020). Rhythmic recursion? Human sensitivity to a Lindenmayer grammar with self-similar structure in a musical task. Music & Science. doi:10.1177%2F2059204320946615.

    Abstract

    Processing of recursion has been proposed as the foundation of human linguistic ability. Yet this ability may be shared with other domains, such as the musical or rhythmic domain. Lindenmayer grammars (L-systems) have been proposed as a recursive grammar for use in artificial grammar experiments to test recursive processing abilities, and previous work had shown that participants are able to learn such a grammar using linguistic stimuli (syllables). In the present work, we used two experimental paradigms (a yes/no task and a two-alternative forced choice) to test whether adult participants are able to learn a recursive Lindenmayer grammar composed of drum sounds. After a brief exposure phase, we found that participants at the group level were sensitive to the exposure grammar and capable of distinguishing the grammatical and ungrammatical test strings above chance level in both tasks. While we found evidence of participants’ sensitivity to a very complex L-system grammar in a non-linguistic, potentially musical domain, the results were not robust. We discuss the discrepancy within our results and with the previous literature using L-systems in the linguistic domain. Furthermore, we propose directions for future music cognition research using L-system grammars.
  • De Heer Kloots, M., Carlson, D., Garcia, M., Kotz, S., Lowry, A., Poli-Nardi, L., de Reus, K., Rubio-García, A., Sroka, M., Varola, M., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Rhythmic perception, production and interactivity in harbour and grey seals. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 59-62). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Heinrich, T., Ravignani, A., & Hanke, F. H. (2020). Visual timing abilities of a harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) and a South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) for sub- and supra-second time intervals. Animal Cognition, 23(5), 851-859. doi:10.1007/s10071-020-01390-3.

    Abstract

    Timing is an essential parameter influencing many behaviours. A previous study demonstrated a high sensitivity of a phocid, the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), in discriminating time intervals. In the present study, we compared the harbour seal’s timing abilities with the timing abilities of an otariid, the South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). This comparison seemed essential as phocids and otariids differ in many respects and might, thus, also differ regarding their timing abilities. We determined time difference thresholds for sub- and suprasecond time intervals marked by a white circle on a black background displayed for a specific time interval on a monitor using a staircase method. Contrary to our expectation, the timing abilities of the fur seal and the harbour seal were comparable. Over a broad range of time intervals, 0.8–7 s in the fur seal and 0.8–30 s in the harbour seal, the difference thresholds followed Weber’s law. In this range, both animals could discriminate time intervals differing only by 12 % and 14 % on average. Timing might, thus be a fundamental cue for pinnipeds in general to be used in various contexts, thereby complementing information provided by classical sensory systems. Future studies will help to clarify if timing is indeed involved in foraging decisions or the estimation of travel speed or distance.

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  • Hoeksema, N., Villanueva, S., Mengede, J., Salazar Casals, A., Rubio-García, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 162-164). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Jacoby, N., Margulis, E. H., Clayton, M., Hannon, E., Honing, H., Iversen, J., Klein, T. R., Mehr, S. A., Pearson, L., Peretz, I., Perlman, M., Polak, R., Ravignani, A., Savage, P. E., Steingo, G., Stevens, C. J., Trainor, L., Trehub, S., Veal, M., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Cross-cultural work in music cognition: Challenges, insights, and recommendations. Music Perception, 37(3), 185-195. doi:10.1525/mp.2020.37.3.185.

    Abstract

    Many foundational questions in the psychology of music require cross-cultural approaches, yet the vast majority of work in the field to date has been conducted with Western participants and Western music. For cross-cultural research to thrive, it will require collaboration between people from different disciplinary backgrounds, as well as strategies for overcoming differences in assumptions, methods, and terminology. This position paper surveys the current state of the field and offers a number of concrete recommendations focused on issues involving ethics, empirical methods, and definitions of “music” and “culture.”
  • Ravignani, A., & Kotz, S. (2020). Breathing, voice and synchronized movement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(38), 23223-23224. doi:10.1073/pnas.2011402117.
  • Ravignani, A., Barbieri, C., Flaherty, M., Jadoul, Y., Lattenkamp, E. Z., Little, H., Martins, M., Mudd, K., & Verhoef, T. (Eds.). (2020). The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences. doi:10.17617/2.3190925.
  • Ravignani, A., Verga, L., & Greenfield, M. D. (2019). Interactive rhythms across species: The evolutionary biology of animal chorusing and turn-taking. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1453(1), 12-21. doi:10.1111/nyas.14230.

    Abstract

    The study of human language is progressively moving toward comparative and interactive frameworks, extending the concept of turn‐taking to animal communication. While such an endeavor will help us understand the interactive origins of language, any theoretical account for cross‐species turn‐taking should consider three key points. First, animal turn‐taking must incorporate biological studies on animal chorusing, namely how different species coordinate their signals over time. Second, while concepts employed in human communication and turn‐taking, such as intentionality, are still debated in animal behavior, lower level mechanisms with clear neurobiological bases can explain much of animal interactive behavior. Third, social behavior, interactivity, and cooperation can be orthogonal, and the alternation of animal signals need not be cooperative. Considering turn‐taking a subset of chorusing in the rhythmic dimension may avoid overinterpretation and enhance the comparability of future empirical work.
  • Ravignani, A. (2019). Seeking shared ground in space. Science, 366(6466), 696. doi:10.1126/science.aay6955.
  • Ravignani, A., & de Reus, K. (2019). Modelling animal interactive rhythms in communication. Evolutionary Bioinformatics, 15, 1-14. doi:10.1177/1176934318823558.

    Abstract

    Time is one crucial dimension conveying information in animal communication. Evolution has shaped animals’ nervous systems to produce signals with temporal properties fitting their socio-ecological niches. Many quantitative models of mechanisms underlying rhythmic behaviour exist, spanning insects, crustaceans, birds, amphibians, and mammals. However, these computational and mathematical models are often presented in isolation. Here, we provide an overview of the main mathematical models employed in the study of animal rhythmic communication among conspecifics. After presenting basic definitions and mathematical formalisms, we discuss each individual model. These computational models are then compared using simulated data to uncover similarities and key differences in the underlying mechanisms found across species. Our review of the empirical literature is admittedly limited. We stress the need of using comparative computer simulations – both before and after animal experiments – to better understand animal timing in interaction. We hope this article will serve as a potential first step towards a common computational framework to describe temporal interactions in animals, including humans.

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