|Mon Jul 7, 2008 - 8:54 AM EDT - By Jay Gross|
As they adapt to a human-dominated environment, wild birds in Europe are imitating the ringtones of mobile telephones. That news comes from Tierram�rica, a Uruguayan press and information service that specializes in environment and development issues.
According to their report, German ornithologists have found that some wild birds can sound just like a ringing cell phone. They "sing up to 78 different phrases, and many of the simplest phone ringtones coincide with them," ornithologist Matthias Werner, of the government's bird protection agency, told a Tierram�ricacorrespondent.
Other ornithologists have reached similar conclusions. "Richard Schneider, of the NABU Bird Protection Center in M�ssingen, Germany, about 370 miles south of Berlin, said, "They can imitate those sounds so well that sometimes it is very difficult to hear the difference.�
Male birds use environmental sounds in the search for a female or to mark their territory, and as a deceptive maneuver when faced with potential dangers. The timid European jay (lowercase �j,� so no relation to present company, thank you very much), which is known scientifically as Garrulus glandarius, imitates other birds, sounds cries of alarm to warn of danger, or makes odd sounds like cracks and meows. The black starling simulates the sound of brakes, human whistles and ambulance sirens. No word yet on a bird that sounds like a television show, but it�s a safe bet that�s not too far fetched.
The phone riffs appear to be additions to the birds� repertoire, and not necessarily portending the loss of the species' original songs, the ornithologists report. Most wild birds are not yet able to mimic the more complex sounds made by the newer mobile phones, or the polyphonic sounds of electronic music. Whew! Wouldn�t want those birds filling in for jazz musicians at the local speak easy.
From the article, which has been widely quoted in the environmental press:
This adaptation comes as no surprise to biologists or other experts in ecology. "No species can survive if it isn't capable of adapting," biologist Matthias Glaubrecht, professor at Humboldt University in Berlin.
"The decisive factors are the scope and velocity of change in the environment of the species," research director for the university's Museum of Natural History. It is possible that species sometimes may be able to adapt to very rapid changes. "But in many cases it's evident that human activity is the accelerator to evolution.�
Birds� native songs have long been recorded and archived in museums and universities, including the Museum of Natural History at Humboldt. I don�t read German well enough to discourse further on their vast archives, but I suppose it won�t be long before they�ll need a Treo and a Centro to round out their bird songs collection.
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