122 research outputs found

    Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus) Sons and Daughters Acquire Song Elements of Mothers and Social Fathers

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    This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.Birdsong is regarded as a classic example of a sexually-selected trait and has been primarily studied in systems with male song. Complex solo female song is emerging from the shadows of overlooked phenomena. In males, rearing conditions affect male song complexity, and males with complex songs are often more successful at mate attraction and territorial defense. Little is known about the ontogeny or function of complex female song. Here we examine song elements in fledgling superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) in relation to the song elements of adult tutors. Male and female superb fairy-wrens produce solo song year-round to defend a territory. We ask if sons and daughters acquire song elements from sex-specific vocal tutors. We found that sons and daughters produced the song elements of their mothers and social fathers, and that sons and daughters had comparable song element repertoires at age 7–10 weeks. We conclude that sons and daughters increase their song element repertoire when vocally imitating elements from several vocal tutors, and that both sexes acquire elements from male and female vocal tutors in this system

    Naris deformation in Darwin’s finches: Experimental and historical evidence for a post-1960s arrival of the parasite Philornis downsi

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    This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).The rate of evolution depends on the strength of selection, which may be particularly strong for introduced parasites and their naive hosts. Because natural selection acts on phenotypes and because parasites can alter host phenotype, one fruitful starting point to measure the impact of novel pathogens is to quantify parasite-induced changes to host phenotype. Our study system is Darwin’s finches on Floreana Island, Galápagos Archipelago, and the virulent fly larvae of Philornis downsi that were first discovered in Darwin’s finch nests in 1997. We use an experimental approach and measure host phenotype in parasitized and parasite-free chicks in Darwin’s small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa). Beak size did not differ between the two treatment groups, but naris size was 106% larger in parasitized chicks (∼3.3 mm) versus parasite-free chicks (∼1.6 mm). To test if P. downsi was present prior to the 1960s, we compared naris size in historical (1899–1962) and contemporary birds (2004–2014) on Floreana Island in small ground finches (G. fuliginosa) and medium tree finches (Camarhynchus pauper). Contemporary Darwin’s finches had significantly larger naris size (including extreme deformation), whereas historical naris size was both smaller and less variable. These findings provide the first longitudinal analysis for the extent of P. downsi-induced change to host naris size and show that Darwin’s finches, prior to the 1960s, were not malformed. Thus natural selection on altered host phenotype as a consequence of P. downsi parasitism appears to be contemporary and novel

    Host response to cuckoo song is predicted by the future risk of brood parasitism

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    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.Introduction: Risk assessment occurs over different temporal and spatial scales and is selected for when individuals show an adaptive response to a threat. Here, we test if birds respond to the threat of brood parasitism using the acoustical cues of brood parasites in the absence of visual stimuli. We broadcast the playback of song of three brood parasites (Chalcites cuckoo species) and a sympatric non-parasite (striated thornbill, Acanthiza lineata) in the territories of superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) during the peak breeding period and opportunistic breeding period. The three cuckoo species differ in brood parasite prevalence and the probability of detection by the host, which we used to rank the risk of parasitism (high risk, moderate risk, low risk). Results: Host birds showed the strongest response to the threat of cuckoo parasitism in accordance with the risk of parasitism. Resident wrens had many alarm calls and close and rapid approach to the playback speaker that was broadcasting song of the high risk brood parasite (Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, C. basalis) across the year (peak and opportunistic breeding period), some response to the moderate risk brood parasite (shining bronze-cuckoo, C. lucidus) during the peak breeding period, and the weakest response to the low risk brood parasite (little bronzecuckoo, C. minutillus). Playback of the familiar control stimulus in wren territories evoked the least response. Conclusion: Host response to the threat of cuckoo parasitism was assessed using vocal cues of the cuckoo and was predicted by the risk of future parasitism

    Baseline and stress-induced blood properties of male and female Darwin’s small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa) of the Galapagos Islands

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    © 2017 Elsevier. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/Birds are renowned for exhibiting marked sex-specific differences in activity levels and reproductive investment during the breeding season, potentially impacting circulating blood parameters associated with stress and energetics. Males of many passerines often do not incubate, but they experience direct exposure to intruder threat and exhibit aggressive behaviour during the nesting phase in order to defend territories against competing males and predators. Nesting females often have long bouts of inactivity during incubation, but they must remain vigilant of the risks posed by predators and conspecific intruders approaching the nest. Here, we use 33 free-living male (n = 16) and female (n = 17) Darwin's small ground finches (Geospiza fuliginosa) on Floreana Island (Galapagos Archipelago) to better understand how sex-specific roles during the reproductive period impact baseline and stress-induced levels of plasma corticosterone (CORT), blood glucose and haematocrit. Specifically, we hypothesise that males are characterised by higher baseline values given their direct and relatively frequent exposure to intruder threat, but that a standardised stress event (capture and holding) overrides any sex-specific differences. In contrast with expectations, baseline levels of all blood parameters were similar between sexes (13.4 ± 1.9 ng ml−1 for CORT, 13.7 ± 0.4 mmol l−1 for glucose, 58.3 ± 0.8% for haematocrit). Interestingly, females with higher body condition had lower baseline haematocrit. All blood parameters changed with time since capture (range 1.2–41.3 min) in both sexes, whereby CORT increased linearly, haematocrit decreased linearly, and glucose increased to a peak at ∼20 min post-capture and declined to baseline levels thereafter. Our results do not support the hypothesis that sex-specific roles during the reproductive period translate to differences in blood parameters associated with stress and energetics, but we found some evidence that blood oxygen transport capacity may decline as finches increase in body condition

    Prenatal auditory learning in avian vocal learners and non-learners

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    Understanding when learning begins is critical for identifying the factors that shape both the developmental course and the function of information acquisition. Until recently, sufficient development of the neural substrates for any sort of vocal learning to begin in songbirds was thought to be reached well after hatching. New research shows that embryonic gene activation and the outcome of vocal learning can be modulated by sound exposure in ovo. We tested whether avian embryos across lineages differ in their auditory response strength and sound learning in ovo, which we studied in vocal learning (Maluridae, Geospizidae) and vocal non-learning (Phasianidae, Spheniscidae) taxa. While measuring heart rate in ovo, we exposed embryos to (i) conspecific or heterospecific vocalizations, to determine their response strength, and (ii) conspecific vocalizations repeatedly, to quantify cardiac habituation, a form of non-associative learning. Response strength towards conspecific vocalizations was greater in two species with vocal production learning compared to two species without. Response patterns consistent with non-associative auditory learning occurred in all species. Our results demonstrate a capacity to perceive and learn to recognize sounds in ovo, as evidenced by habituation, even in species that were previously assumed to have little, if any, vocal production learning. This article is part of the theme issue 'Vocal learning in animals and humans'

    Reduced ectoparasite load, body mass and blood haemolysis in Eurasian kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) along an urban-rural gradient

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    Urbanisation is proceeding at an alarming rate which forces wildlife to either retreat from urban areas or cope with novel stressors linked to human presence and activities. For example, urban stressors like anthropogenic noise, artificial light at night and chemical pollution can have severe impacts on the physiology of wildlife (and humans), in particular the immune system and antioxidant defences. These physiological systems are important to combat and reduce the severity of parasitic infections, which are common among wild animals. One question that then arises is whether urban-dwelling animals, whose immune and antioxidant system are already challenged by the urban stressors, are more susceptible to parasitic infections. To assess this, we studied nestlings of Eurasian kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) in Vienna, Austria, during 2015 and 2017. We measured biomarkers of innate immune function, oxidative stress and body mass index and ectoparasite infection intensity in 143 nestlings (from 56 nests) along an urban gradient. Nestlings in more urbanised areas had overall fewer ectoparasites, lower haemolysis (complement activity) and lower body mass index compared to nestlings in less urbanised areas. None of the other immune or oxidative stress markers were associated with the urban gradient. Despite some non-significant results, our data still suggest that kestrel nestlings experience some level of reduced physiological health, perhaps as a consequence of exposure to more urban stressors or altered prey availability in inner-city districts even though they had an overall lower ectoparasite burden in these heavily urbanised areas.</p

    Multiple hypotheses explain variation in extra-pair paternity at different levels in a single bird family

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    Extra‐pair paternity (EPP), where offspring are sired by a male other than the social male, varies enormously both within and among species. Trying to explain this variation has proved difficult because the majority of the interspecific variation is phylogenetically based. Ideally, variation in EPP should be investigated in closely related species, but clades with sufficient variation are rare. We present a comprehensive multifactorial test to explain variation in EPP among individuals in 20 populations of nine species over 89 years from a single bird family (Maluridae). Females had higher EPP in the presence of more helpers, more neighbours or if paired incestuously. Furthermore, higher EPP occurred in years with many incestuous pairs, populations with many helpers and species with high male density or in which males provide less care. Altogether, these variables accounted for 48% of the total and 89% of the interspecific and interpopulation variation in EPP. These findings indicate why consistent patterns in EPP have been so challenging to detect and suggest that a single predictor is unlikely to account for the enormous variation in EPP across levels of analysis. Nevertheless, it also shows that existing hypotheses can explain the variation in EPP well and that the density of males in particular is a good predictor to explain variation in EPP among species when a large part of the confounding effect of phylogeny is excluded
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