Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Birds use social learning to enhance nest defense

08.06.2009
Reed warblers learn from neighbors to defend their nests against parasitism from cuckoos

Reed warblers live with the threat that a cuckoo bird will infiltrate their nest, remove one of their eggs, and replace it with the cuckoo's own. This 'parasitism' enables the cuckoo to have its young raised by unsuspecting reed warblers.

However, scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered that reed warblers will attack or 'mob' cuckoos on their territory and so prevent the parasites from laying eggs in their nests. However, this behaviour can backfire because it may cause injury and expose warblers to predators.

New experiments show that inexperienced warblers can learn to defend themselves against cuckoos by observing the mobbing behaviour of other members of their species. This social learning was specific to cuckoos but not to harmless control birds, such as parrots, suggesting that the warblers are primed to learn defensive behaviour but only in response to true threats. These findings were reported today (05 June) in the journal Science.

Dr Justin Welbergen explained the significance of their research: "Our previous work showed that reed warblers distinguish cuckoos from other nest enemies and adjust their defences according to local parasitism risk. Our current work demonstrates that reed warblers can use social information to fine-tune their defences to the nature of the local threat."

It had previously been established that cuckoos (the parasites) and reed warblers (the hosts) are engaged in a co-evolutionary arms race - once one had evolved an advantage (such as the reed warblers' ability to eject the cuckoos' eggs), the other would evolve a counter tactic (as when the cuckoo evolved eggs similar to the warblers' eggs). However, although genetic adaptations were to be expected, it was a surprise to the scientists that social learning provided another mechanism by which the warbler rapidly increased their nest defence.

Dr Welbergen continued: "Studies of co-evolutionary arms races between brood parasites and hosts have emphasised genetic adaptations and counter adaptations; however, our field experiments show that transmission through social learning provides a mechanism by which hosts can adjust their nest defence and so respond rapidly to changes in parasitism."

Genevieve Maul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cam.ac.uk

Further reports about: Birds Reed warblers cuckoo bird cuckoos parasitism parrots warblers' eggs

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>