Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Birds and humans have similar ’shopping’ habits

21.05.2003


Feeding birds display similar habits to human consumers shopping for food, according to research published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.



A two-year study has discovered it is possible to influence hummingbirds’ choice of food by changing the options available to them, in the same way supermarkets can manipulate customers’ preferences by clever positioning of products.

The study is published in the current edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society. Dr Melissa Bateson, of the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and a member of the research team, said the findings shed new light on the way animals, including humans, make ’consumer’ choices - and are therefore likely to be of use to marketing theorists as well as naturalists.


The technique can also potentially be applied to conservation projects, such as those focused on protecting certain species of flower, said Dr Bateson, a Royal Society Research Fellow, who will present the findings of this and other projects at a symposium in Berlin next week.

The research team, comprising animal behaviour experts from the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh in the UK and the University of Lethbridge, Canada, repeated an experiment on hummingbirds originally carried out by marketing experts on humans. This showed that supermarkets influenced the choices of around a third of shoppers when they changed the range of products open to them.

Central to the experiment was getting consumers to choose between two competing brands and then seeing how the introduction of a new product altered their choice. It found that, after introduction of a carefully selected ‘decoy’ product which enhanced the attractiveness of the ‘target’ brand – the one supermarkets wanted shoppers to buy - around a third of customers’ switched their preference accordingly. The marketing experts called this the ‘Asymmetrically Dominatedant Effect’.

Dr Bateson and her colleagues studied 12 rufous humming birds during their breeding period in the Canadian Rocky Mountains from May to July. The birds, which feed on the nectar of the flowers in the valley, need to eat almost constantly due to their high metabolism, and they usually always return to the same area for their meals.

The researchers created a mock flower bed on a perspex sheet containing several small feeding wells filled with ‘nectar’ - sucrose solution of varying quantities and concentrations. Coloured paper, to imitate petals, was placed around the feeding wells. The colour of the petals indicated the make-up of the nectar concentration and volume of the nectar contained in the flower.

Under normal circumstances, hummingbirds prefer flowers containing sweeter or larger volumes of nectar, as this provides them with more energy.

However, the introduction of decoys altered their choices, making another, ‘target’ flower seem more attractive. Preference for the target flower increased, regardless of nectar volume or concentration.

Dr Bateson, a member of the Evolution and Behaviour Research Group at the University, said:

“This research shows that the birds, like humans, are actually more irrational than we previously thought. They are prepared to make an instant decision based on the choices they have available at the time.

“Until now experts thought that birds would compute which source of food was going to provide them with the maximum amount of energy, taking variables such as volume and concentration into consideration, but our research suggests that, like humans, hummingbirds can be influenced by the range of options available.”

"The findings have implications for a wide range of biological problems involving animal decision-making. For example, choice tests are regularly used in animal welfare research to determine conditions preferred by captive animals, but the current findings suggest that the preferences of animals may be dependent on the range of options offered in the choice test.

"The findings could also be of relevance to research in ecology and conservation where scientists need to understand the effects on the behaviour of foragers and pollinators of adding or subtracting a prey species from the environment.

"The technique can also potentially be applied to conservation projects, such as those focused on protecting certain species of flower. "

“Hummingbirds have an important role in pollinating flowers. If there are two different types of flowers in an area and one is the focus of a conservation effort, introducing a decoy species which enhances the attractiveness of the target flower may help achieve the conservation goal.”

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and The Royal Society.

Melissa Bateson | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/content.phtml?ref=1051786770

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht eTRANSAFE – collaborative research project aimed at improving safety in drug development process
26.09.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht Beer can lift your spirits
26.09.2017 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bacterial Nanosized Speargun Works Like a Power Drill

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

The fastest light-driven current source

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Beer can lift your spirits

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>