Project 3691: A. Monte, A. F. Cerwenka, B. Ruthensteiner, M. Gahr, D. N. Düring. 2020. The hummingbird syrinx morphome: a detailed three-dimensional description of the black jacobin’s vocal organ. BMC Zoology. 5 (1):null.
Specimen: Florisuga fusca (unvouchered)
View: Syrinx overview


The ability to imitate sounds depends on a process called vocal production learning, a rare evolutionary trait. In addition to the few mammalian groups that possess this ability, vocal production learning has evolved independently in three avian clades: songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds. Although the anatomy and mechanisms of sound production in songbirds are well understood, little is known about the hummingbird’s vocal anatomy. We use high-resolution micro-computed tomography (μCT) and microdissection to reveal the three-dimensional structure of the syrinx, the vocal organ of the black jacobin (Florisuga fusca), a phylogenetically basal hummingbird species. We identify three features of the black jacobin’s syrinx: (i) a shift in the position of the syrinx to the outside of the thoracic cavity and the related loss of the sterno-tracheal muscle, (ii) complex intrinsic musculature, oriented dorso-ventrally, and (iii) ossicles embedded in the medial vibratory membranes. Black jacobin´s intrinsic musculature oriented dorso-ventrally appears being a hummingbird specific novelty, likely due to the extra-thoracic location of syrinx that uncouples syrinx movements from extensive flight-related thorax constraints. Their syrinx morphology allows vibratory decoupling, precise control of complex acoustic parameters, and a large motor redundancy that may be key biomechanical factors leading to acoustic complexity and thus facilitating the occurrence of vocal production learning.

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Article DOI: 10.1186/s40850-020-00057-3

Project DOI: 10.7934/P3691,
This project contains
  • 6 Media
  • 1 Taxon
  • 1 Specimen
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MorphoBank Project 3691

    Authors' Institutions

    • University of Zurich (Universität Zürich)

    • Bavarian State Collection of Zoology

    • Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

    • Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ)

    • ETH Zurich


    member name taxa specimens media media
    Amanda Monte
    Project Administrator
    Daniel Düring
    Full membership
    Manfred Gahr

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