Scientists have created a "blueprint" of the genome of a songbird.
The advance, described in the journal Nature, could reveal some of the evolutionary secrets of vocal learning in animals, including humans.
The researchers say it will aid the study the genetics of speech disorders, such as those related to autism, stuttering and Parkinson's Disease.
The international research team was led by Dr Wesley Warren from the Washington University in St Louis, US.
"The zebra finch is a beautiful model for vocal learning," Dr Warren said.
He explained to BBC News that earlier research had shown that certain genes in the brains of zebra finches were activated when the male birds heard a familiar song.
"We looked for the position of these genes in the bird's genome, and then looked for the [equivalent] genes in the chicken genome," he explained.
The chicken is the only other bird to have had its genome fully sequenced.
And by comparing the chicken genome to that of a songbird, the scientists were able to identify genes that were most important in vocalisation and song-learning.
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