Laboratory of Comparative Psycoacoustics
Belgian Waterslager canaries
have been selectively bred for their song and plumage for well over a
hundred years, so there are many different strains of these songbirds.
One strain, the Belgian Waterslager canary, has become particularly
noted for its loud, low-pitched song.
A number of years ago, behavioral studies of hearing in this
canary showed these birds have very poor hearing at high frequencies
compared to other strains of canaries (figure at right).
Physiological and anatomical studies of the ear and auditory nerve
in this species over the last decade have now shown that the
high-frequency hearing loss in canaries of this strain is inherited and
involves missing and damaged hair cells on the basilar papilla (the
sensory surface of the bird hearing organ). This is remarkable because
we know that birds, unlike mammals, have the ability to regenerate new
auditory hair cells.
Current studies in the Belgian Waterslager canary show evidence of
a low level of continuous supporting cell proliferation and hair cell
differentiation that can be increased by killing existing hair cells
with ototoxic drugs or high levels of noise. So far, neither this low
level of proliferation, nor even the increased level of proliferation
from noise exposure or ototoxic drug administration, results in complete
repair of the basilar papilla and efforts are underway to understand
some of the possible limiting factors.
Home | How we study hearing in birds | Budgerigars hear | Budgerigars say | Noise effects generally | Environmental noise | Zebra finch as model | Hair cell regeneration | Belgian Waterslager canaries
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