Animal minds Genomics Intelligent Design

Do genes unique to parrots enable them to mimic human language?

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Turquoise-fronted amazon (Amazona aestiva) older adult.JPG
Turquoise-fronted Amazon parrot/Charles J. Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The find kind of disappointed researchers who really wanted to know how humans come to use language but it is interesting in itself:

Parrots do live longer than other similar-sized birds (one captive parrot lived to be a documented 66 years). By comparing the genome of a blue-fronted Amazon parrot named Moises with that of 30 other long- and short-lived birds — including four additional parrot species, they got some clues.

They found genes identified with longevity, mainly genes responsible for the repair of telomeres (the ends of chromosomes), which tend to shorten with age. They also found some novel (de novo) genes, present only in parrots, near the genes associated with neural development that are linked with cognitive abilities, in humans. Interesting but not very conclusive:

“Unfortunately, we didn’t find as many speech-related changes as I had hoped,” said Wirthlin, whose research is focused on the evolution of vocal behaviors, including speech. Animals that learn songs or speech are relatively rare— parrots, hummingbirds, songbirds, whales, dolphins, seals and bats—which makes them particularly interesting to scientists, such as Wirthlin, who hope to gain a better understanding of how humans evolved this capacity.
Parrot genome analysis reveals insights into longevity, cognition” at ScienceDaily

It’s not always clear what specific capacity the researchers are trying to study: the ability to vocalize words or the ability to understand them? One of them told a popular science magazine, … More. Can genes predict which birds can learn to talk?” at Mind Matters

See also: See also: Crows can be as smart as apes. But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn’t seem to reside in the details of the mechanism

and

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: How is human language different from animal signals? What do we need from language that we cannot get from signals alone?

One Reply to “Do genes unique to parrots enable them to mimic human language?

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    Crows can be as smart as apes. But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn’t seem to reside in the details of the mechanism

    We don’t know enough about the mechanisms of each to know the truth of this statement. We know precious little how neural networks implement this or that function.

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