Adaptations: Neural and Sensory
Birds are able to perform numerous tasks with a high degree of complexity. It is not apparent that the structures associated with the cognitive ability of the bird brain are comparable to those of their mammalian counterparts. As with other parts of the body, the brains of distantly related species tend to be derived from the same basic elements found in the common ancestor; they exhibit homology. So although the common ancestor of birds and mammals lived approximately 300 million years ago, studies of extant reptiles have revealed that the reptilian (therapsid and sauropsid) forebrain is cortical-like in origin and therefore the common ancestor should also have shared this trait. If so, the forebrain of modern birds and mammals is expected to be cortical-like as well. This seems to be the case. This chapter focuses on the neural specializations found in birds, notably those important in foraging, long-distance navigation, and song production.
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