Shreyas Mandre

Associate Professor
Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick

Controllable biomimetic birdsong J. R. Soc. Interface.14: 20170002 (2017) PDF

by Mukherjee, Mandre and Mahadevan
Biomechanics Birdsong


Birdsong is the product of the controlled generation of sound embodied in a neuromotor system. From a biophysical perspective, a natural question is that of the difficulty of producing birdsong. To address this, we built a biomimetic syrinx consisting of a stretched simple rubber tube through which air is blown, subject to localized mechanical squeezing with a linear actuator. A large static tension on the tube and small dynamic variations in the localized squeezing allow us to control transitions between three states: a quiescent state, a periodic state and a solitary wave state. The static load brings the system close to threshold for spontaneous oscillations, while small dynamic loads allow for rapid transitions between the states. We use this to mimic a variety of birdsongs via the slow–fast modulated nonlinear dynamics of the physical substrate, the syrinx, regulated by a simple controller. Finally, a minimal mathematical model of the system inspired by our observations allows us to address the problem of song mimicry in an excitable oscillator for tonal songs.