The soothing sounds of theropods

About 60 million years ago the group of synapsids that survived the impact seemed to offer Mother Nature considerable promise, especially the ones that developed stereoscopic vision and started climbing through tree branches. Then at some time, possibly about 10-5 million years ago, something happened and the descendants of some of the tree dwellers started walking on land and developed tribalism, treachery, selfishness and hierarchical dominance. It appears that these behavioral characteristics cannot be overcome and that in combination with a certain cleverness resulting from enlarged crania, these organisms will sooner or later wipe themselves out. Natura abhorret a erroris.

So if you are sick of hearing about this evolutionary dead-end, take a break and listen to a nobler experiment–the theropod. True, the ones remaining are not quite as large as the good old days, but they are extremely successful and appear to be able to thrive, notwithstanding the efforts of that primate to destroy the planet.

And best of all, it’s no longer necessary to actually go outside to listen to them. Michigan State University has set up a web-site with bird calls from all over the world. They call it AVoCet (birders will chuckle over that) for Avian Vocalization Center. I very quickly estimated that they currently have recordings from over 3,000 birds from around the world. They also have sonograms of the calls. You can search the database by common name or scientific name. The common name search feature is not as nimble as Google, so you best look up the scientific name online or with your handy Peterson’s.

Opisthocomus hoazin, from the Amazon

The site promises much more in the near future, and I would suggest a couple of fixes. For example, although it has a listing of total birds by country, the list leads nowhere although the country’s name appears to have been designed to be hyperlinked to something. They also promise to add many more species. I’m looking forward to the sound of my favorite bird, the hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), which is rudely called by some the stinkbird. The newly hatched hoatzin has claws that enable it to climb through branches much like its extinct maniraptor ancestors did.

The database and sound and visual collection is under the supervision of Pamela Rasmussen, an assistant professor of zoology and assistant curator at the MSU Museum. I could give you further explanation but it’s best that you just go there and dive in.

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