Issues Magazine

Articles about animal communication

Learning from Animals that Learn

By Sonia Kleindorfer and Jeremy Robertson

Learning by chicks in the egg is crucial to the survival of superb fairy-wrens, and has the power to change our perception of other species.

Our capacity to wonder and to communicate that wonder sets us apart from many animals. But when does communication about the external world begin?

The BirdLab at Flinders University recently discovered that communication occurs before birth, at least in some birds, and that it is crucial for survival. We found that female superb fairy-wrens teach their unhatched embryos a unique acoustic element that is the basis of their begging call.