Paris - The dove, the placid bird of peace, is something of a champion in wildlife, using remarkable "super fast" muscles that help it make its distinctive call, zoologists have discovered.
The dove's familiar cooing sound includes a trill, which is caused by an airflow that makes membranes in its vocal organ, the syrinx, vibrate.
Those vibrations are made by activating two pairs of muscles which position the membranes in the airflow and tension or slacken them as appropriate in order to produce the trill.
The only kind of muscles that can switch and on off as quickly as this are "super fast" ones, which are able to change direction in less than 10 microseconds, according to a new study.
"Super fast" muscles have previously been spotted in the rattlesnake, to help it agitate its rattle, and in the toadfish, a West Atlantic species of fish that makes foghorn-like noises to attract a mate.
Given that doves have relatively simple calls, superfast vocal muscles may be quite widespread among birds, especially among songbirds, say the authors, led by Coen Elemans of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The study appears on Thursday in the British weekly science journal Nature.