Cornell Chronicle on our lyrebird NSF project

Were Australia’s lyrebirds the first ‘meme generators’?

Australia’s Superb Lyrebird – the most astonishing animal mimic in the world – has been communicating with memes through song and dance for millions of years.

“These days we usually think of memes as bits of culture transmitted through social media, like little dancing bananas,” says Irby Lovette, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program. “But the lyrebirds are spreading memes too. They’re picking up sounds from their environment, incorporating them into their song repertoires, and then learning from one another.”

Lovette is the Cornell leader of a research project, funded by a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, to understand the evolution of culture among these avian mimics…..

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