Associate Professor - Univ. J. Monnet
Social relationships in animals rely on
communication systems. Among the channels that could be used for
communication (visual, chemical or mechanical signals), acoustic
communication is prominent during social interactions for many bird
Songbirds produce two types of vocalizations: songs and calls. Songs
are generally much more complex than calls. Indeed, songs are elaborate
and highly structured vocal patterns rendered in syntactical order that
result from imitation learning and dynamic sensory-motor feedback,
whereas calls are often short monosyllabic notes. Songs are mainly
delivered in the contexts of reproduction and intrasexual competition,
whereas calls are evoked in a diversity of contexts such as social
grouping, information sharing about resource location, aggressive
interactions or alarm about predation.
Because songs represent strinkingly sophisticated communication
signals, they have been attractive research subjects for decades. But
as underlined by Peter Marler (2004), songs are part of the larger
repertoire of sounds that birds use for social communication.
Every songbird species employ a set of calls beside the song, that with
no doubt contribute to birds’ complex social behaviours. As the
sophistication of the sociality of birds has begun to be acknowledged,
bird calls are still begging to be studied in more details.
In this context, I'm interested in acoustic communication based on
calls in songbirds, especially the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).
Projects & Collaborations
recognition processes in the zebra finch's communication network.
By using both
behavioural and neurobiological methods, this project is investigating
how birds perform individual recognition based on calls in the zebra
finch's social network (recognition between mates, between parents and
nestlings, between parents and young...). This project is studying not
only how vocal recognition is performed in the network but also how the
network itself might influence acoustic communication, e.g. the
so-called audience effect.
These phenomena are
studied mainly in the lab using acoustic analysis, playback
experiments, as well as brain immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology,
optical tomography and fMRI.
This project has
been funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR grant, "Birds'
voices" project 2007-2010) and is done in collaboration with Nicolas
Mathevon (head of our Research Group, see his website).
2) Acoustic communication and monogamy in the zebra finch
zebra finch is a
gregarious nomadic songbird of the semi-arid regions of Australia that
forms monogamous pair bonds. Both partners contribute to nest building,
incubation and chick rearing. Partners are literally inseparable except
when one mate has to remain in the nest during incubation and chick
zebra finch mates behave as highly coordinated and collaborating
partners. Pair coordination is built on intense vocal communication
between mates and, as for other social interactions in this species,
acoustic interactions represent the cornerstone of this real
is studying the acoustic basis of the monogamous pairbond in the zebra
finch, both in the lab and in the field.
of this work is also performed in collaborations with:
(Macquarie University, Australia) = field work on wild zebra
-C. Soulage (INSERM
U870 - INSA Lyon, France) = corticosterone assays
-H. Soula (INRIA -
INSA Lyon) and M. Fernandez (PhD student) = dynamics of vocal
interactions in pairs and groups
This project is
funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR grant, "Acoustic
partnership" project 2012-2015).
3) Acoustic communication and sex-roles equality in monogamous songbirds
bond in birds represents a real partnership. Mates work as a team
during chicks rearing and synchronize their activity. The monogamous
pair bond in birds can thus be considered as an example of cooperative
behaviour that relies on coordination between mates. Coordination and
synchrony could be reached by communication between the partners. The
study of acoustic communication in monogamous birds is thus of high
relevance to the understanding of monogamy and more generally of
project aims at studying whether coordination in acoustic communication
correlates with sex-role equality between mates during incubation and
chick rearing by comparing a species with high level of equality
between mates, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), and a species
with a female-biased work load, the great tit (Parus major).
This work is
the core of the PhD work of Ingrid Boucaud.
4) Impact of noise on intra-pair acoustic communication in monogamous
acoustic communication is involved in the coordination of activities of
monogamous partners in birds, it is necessary to characterize how they
adapt to ecological constraints.
project aims at comparing the intra-pair communication of two bird
species facing different levels of background noise. Zebra finches
(Taeniopygia guttata) live in semi-arid zones of Australia, an
unpredictable environment where windy conditions are highly variable on
a hourly basis. Variable windy conditions are likely to constrain zebra
finch intra-pair communication. The European dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
inhabits the surroundings of fast moving upland rivers, and thus faces
the constant wideband background noise of the river.
This work is
done in collaboration with B. Doligez (Univ. Lyon 1, CNRS)
and is the core of the PhD work of Avelyne Villain.
I'm currently in
charge of the University courses that prepare to the French national
exam to become High-school teacher => Classe de Préparation au
Capes Sciences de la Vie et de la Terre UJM - IUFM de Lyon. I'm also
teaching ethology and neuroethology to Master students, as well as
physiology at undergrad level (licence).
Mariette MM, Villain AS, Vignal C, 2015. Vocal negotiation over
parental care? Partners adjust their time spent incubating based on
their acoustic communication at the nest. Biological Journal of the
Linnean Society, in press.
Elie JE, Boucaud ICA, Crouchet T, Soulage CO, Soula HA, Theunissen FE,
Vignal C, 2015. Physiological resonance between mates through calls as
possible evidence of empathic processes in songbirds. Hormones and
Behavior, in press.
EC*, Fernandez MSA*, Griffith SC, Vignal C, Soula HA, 2015. Impact of
visual contact on vocal interaction dynamics of pair bonded birds.
Animal Behaviour 107 :125-137.
Cathaud C, Chambon R, Vignal C, 2013. Juvenile social experience
affects pairing success at adulthood: congruence with the loser effect.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological
Perez EC, Elie JE,
Soulage CO, Soula HA, Mathevon N, Vignal C, 2012. The acoustic
expression of stress in a songbird: Does corticosterone drive
isolation-induced modifications of zebra finch calls? Hormones and
Behavior 61, 573-581.
Elie JE, Mariette
MM, Soula HA, Griffith SC, Mathevon N, Vignal C, 2010. Vocal
communication at the nest between mates in wild zebra finches: a
private vocal duet? Animal Behaviour 80:597-605
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