Peter Marler

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Peter Marler
Born(1928-02-24)February 24, 1928[1]
DiedJuly 5, 2014(2014-07-05) (aged 86)
Alma mater
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Davis

Peter Robert Marler ForMemRS (February 24, 1928 – July 5, 2014)[1] was a British-born American ethologist known for his research on animal language and the science of bird song. A 1964 Guggenheim Fellow,[2][3][4][5] he was emeritus professor of neurobiology, physiology and ethology at the University of California, Davis.[6]


Born in Slough, England,[7] Marler graduated from University College London with a BSc in 1948, and a Ph.D. in Botany in 1952. In 1954, he graduated from the University of Cambridge with a second Ph.D. in zoology.[citation needed]


From 1954 to 1956, he worked as a research assistant to William Homan Thorpe and Robert Hinde at Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1957, he became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1966, he became a professor at Rockefeller University, in 1969 became director of the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior, a collaboration between the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) and Rockefeller University and in 1972 became director of the Field Research Center for Ethology and Ecology.

In 1989, Marler became a professor at the University of California, Davis. He retired in 1994, but took over the management of the local Center for Animal Behavior from 1996 to 2000. He died on July 5, 2014 of pneumonia while his family was evacuated from his Winters home because of the nearby Monticello wildfire.[8]


Marler was an internationally recognized researcher in the field of bird song.[9][10][11][12] Through his work with songbirds, he helped gain fundamental insights into the acquisition of song. He also studied the development of communication skills in several primate species: chimpanzees and gorillas, along with Jane Goodall and Hugo van Lawick, and the southern green monkey, in collaboration with Tom Struhsaker, Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth. His work greatly informed our understanding of memory, learning, and the importance of auditory and social experience. His work group included many well-known ornithologist and behavioral scientists, including Masakazu Konishi, Fernando Nottebohm, Susan Peters, Don Kroodsma, Bill Searcy, Steve Nowicki, Ken Yasukawa, and John Wingfield.

Awards and honours[edit]

Marler was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 2008. His nomination reads:

Selected publications[edit]

  • Palleroni, A., M. Hauser & P. Marler (2005). "Do responses of galliform birds vary adaptively with predator size?" Animal Cognition. (8): 200-210.
  • Partan, S.R.; P. Marler (2005) "Issues in the classification of multimodal communication signals". American Naturalist. (166): 231-245.
  • Palleroni, A., C.T. Miller, M. Hauser, & P. Marler (2005). "Prey plumage adaptation against falcon attack". Nature. (434): 973-974.
  • Nelson, D.A. & P. Marler (2005). "Do bird nestmates learn the same songs?" Animal Behaviour. (69): 1007-1010.
  • Marler, P. (2005). "Ethology and the origins of behavioral endocrinology". Hormones and Behavior. (47): 493-502.
  • Marler, P. (2004). "Science and birdsong: The good old days". In: Nature's Music: The Science of Birdsong, P. Marler & H. Slabbekoorn (eds.). Elsevier Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp. 1–38.
  • Marler, P. (2000). "Origins of music and speech: insights from animals". In: The Origins of Music, N. Wallin, B. Merker, and S. Brown (eds.). Cambridge: The MIT Press, 31–48.
  • Marler P. (1999). "How much does a human environment humanize a chimp". American Anthropologist. (101): 432-436.
  • Marler P. and DF Sherry (1999). "The nature and nurture of developmental plasticity". Proceedings of the 22nd International Ornithological Congress. Durban South Africa: University of Natal Press.
  • Marler, P (1970). "Birdsong and speech development: could there be parallels?". American Scientist. 58 (6): 669–673. JSTOR 27829317.


  1. ^ a b Nottebohm, Fernando (2014). "Peter Marler (1928–2014) Pioneering interpreter of animal language". Nature. 512 (372). doi:10.1038/512372a.
  2. ^ "Peter Robert Marler - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  3. ^ Peter Marler Papers at Special Collections Dept., University Library, University of California, Davis
  4. ^ Article on the Monticello Fire and Peter Marler's Passing
  5. ^ Peter Marler's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Peter Marler". 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  7. ^ Vitello, Paul (July 27, 2014). "Peter Marler, Graphic Decoder of Birdsong, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  8. ^ "Obituary: UC Davis scientist Peter Marler, 86, pioneered research on how birds 'talk' - Obituaries - The Sacramento Bee". 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  9. ^ Seyfarth, R. M.; Cheney, D. L.; Marler, P (1980). "Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: Evidence of predator classification and semantic communication". Science. 210 (4471): 801–3. doi:10.1126/science.7433999. PMID 7433999.
  10. ^ Partan, S; Marler, P (1999). "Communication goes multimodal". Science. 283 (5406): 1272–3. doi:10.1126/science.283.5406.1272. PMID 10084931.
  11. ^ Seyfarth, R. M.; Cheney, D. L.; Marler, P. (1980). "Vervet monkey alarm calls: Semantic communication in a free-ranging primate". Animal Behaviour. 28 (4): 1070–1094. doi:10.1016/S0003-3472(80)80097-2.
  12. ^ Marler, P. (1955). "Characteristics of Some Animal Calls". Nature. 176 (4470): 6–8. doi:10.1038/176006a0.
  13. ^ "EC/2008/49: Marler, Peter Robert". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-08-28.

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