Researcher Information

SOMA Masayo


Towards scientific understanding of social bonding

Department of Biological Sciences, Behavioral Neurobiology


Evolution of mutual sexual signalling
Evolution of vocal/non-cocal communications

FieldEthology, Animal Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Evolution, Comparative Cognitive Science, Bioacoustics
KeywordSongbird (Oscine), Estrildid finches, Courtship, Display, Dance, Social signal, Social bond, Sexual selection, Java sparrow, Cordon-bleu, Star finch, Phylogenetic comparative analysis

Introduction of Research

Passerine songs have been well studied not only because they are one of the notable examples of sexually selected traits but also because their acquisition process and mechanism have many parallels with those of human language. Both humans and passerines live highly social lives, use vocalization for communication between pairs, family and community members, and most importantly have the ability to acquire acoustic characteristics of their own vocalization through social learning in the early developmental period. Using Estrildid finches, we are trying to understand why complex acoustic and visual communication evolved and how individual development shapes the underling cognitive ability for communication.

Mutual courtsip of a Java sparrow pair(cf. Soma & Iwama 2017)
Tap dancing courtship of cordon-bleus(cf. Ota et al. 2015)
Hypothesized interpretation of audience effect on tap dancing in cordon-bleus (Ota et al. 2018)

Representative Achievements

Ota N, Gahr M, Soma M (2018)
Couples showing off: Audience promotes both male and female multimodal courtship display in a songbird.
Science Advances
Soma M, Garamszegi LZ (2018)
Evolution of patterned plumage as a sexual signal in estrildid finches.
Behavioral Ecology
Soma M, Iwama M (2017)
Mating success follows duet dancing in the Java sparrow.
Plos ONE
Ota N, Gahr M, Soma M (2015)
Tap dancing birds: the multimodal mutual courtship display of males and females in a socially monogamous songbird.
Scientific Reports
Rethinking birdsong evolution: Meta-analysis of the relationship between song complexity and reproductive success
Masayo Soma, László Zsolt Garamszegi
Behavioral Ecology 22 363-371 Mar 2011

Related industries

Education, Natural history
Academic degreePh.D.
Self Introduction

What I like: BMW F800ST

Academic background2002 BA, University of Tokyo
2004 MA, University of Tokyo
2007 PhD, University of Tokyo
2007-2010 JSPS postdoc fellow (Hayama, Sokendai), Lectuerer at Rikkyo University, Lecturere at Tokyo Woman's Christian University, visiting resercher at RIKEN
2010- present post
Affiliated academic societyJapan Ethological Society, Ornithological Society of Japan, Zoological Society of Japan, International Bioacoustics Council
Room addressScience Building 5 Room 912

Department of Biological Sciences, Behavioral Neurobiology

SOMA Masayo


Who is the researcher you respect most? Please also tell us why.

As a biologist, I cannot say that I know Albert Einstein very well, but one of his quotes is always echoing in my mind: “Everything you can imagine, nature has already created”.
Through studying animal behavior, I always see miracles of nature, such as tap-dancing courtship display of cordon-bleus.

What do you usually do when you get stuck in your research?

Honestly, I’ve never felt that my work got stuck (though I literally got stuck in snow a number of times while I was driving in the campus in winter). I just love challenging questions. Unexpected research outcomes could be more precious than expected ones, as they could lead us to deeper insight.

Please tell us about yourself; things you are good at, your favorites, hobbies, and daily routines.

Motorcycling and cooking are two of my favorite things to do on weekends.
(Photos: My motorcycle parked beside my favorite cheese maker’s milk farm, fall fruits, my cat & jam)