By studying American redstarts, National Zoo scientists have shed light on the phenomenon that has important implications for rates of genetic differentiation. The study was published online in the Feb. 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Scientists looked at two distinct redstart habitats in Jamaica—one, a lush, food-rich habitat, and the other, a dry and harsher habitat. The study showed that birds that spent their first winter in the lush habitat left earlier for spring migration and traveled relatively short distances to breed. Birds that first wintered in the harsher habitat left later on migration and traveled a longer distance to breed.
The difference in migration distance between birds in these habitats led to birds from the lush habitat dispersing south of their hatch site and birds from the dry, harsh habitat dispersing north of their natal site.
Studying natal dispersal in migratory birds has previously presented a challenge to scientists. It is difficult to track small animal species across long distances as opposed to larger animals that can be fit with satellite collars.
Scientists Colin Studds, a doctoral candidate in the Program in Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics at the University of Maryland (College Park), and Peter Marra, an ecologist at the Migratory Bird Center, investigated this phenomenon.
They compared a chemical marker in the feathers of birds spending their first winter in Jamaica to the feathers they grew one year later after their first breeding season. This marker—a stable isotope of hydrogen—revealed the approximate latitude in North America where birds grew their feathers. Hydrogen isotopes vary predictably with latitude, and birds store the signature of their local area in their bodies through their insect-rich diets. By sampling redstart feathers in Jamaica, the researchers were able to piece together the hatching and breeding latitudes of birds they could not otherwise track for long distances.
Natal dispersal is thought to be the main process affecting genetic mixing of bird populations. This study is first to show that conditions in tropical winter areas can influence natal dispersal patterns. The findings underscore the importance of developing conservation projects that take into account the annual cycle of a migratory bird.
John Gibbons | EurekAlert!
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
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Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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