Most mothers-to-be must simply hope for healthy offspring. But female house finches tip the odds in their babies’ favor by pre-determining their gender, a new study suggests. According to a report published in the current issue of the journal Science, enterprising mother house finches adjust the sex and growth of their offspring to account for the order in which the eggs are laid, thereby reducing the mortality of their sons and daughters by 10 to 20 percent.
Image ©Science/A. Badyaev
Alexander Badyaev of the University of Montana, Missoula, and colleagues studied two populations of the house finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, that have diverged significantly over the past 20 years. The scientists found predictable patterns in how a baby finch’s sex and position in the laying order affected both its growth pattern and its chance of survival. In the Montana population, first-born females exhibited better survival odds than their male counterparts did. But in Alabama, first-born males survived more often. Such survival discrepancies seem to drive maternal finches to select whether sons or daughters hatch first. "Breeding females in both Montana and Alabama populations lay male and female eggs in different sequences within clutches," the authors write, "thus placing sons and daughters in the most advantageous positions for survival in that particular environment."
Exactly how finch mothers control their offspring’s sex, survival and growth remains a mystery. The researchers note that such adjustments facilitate adaptation to local environments. Observing such acclimatization, they conclude, provides "empirical support for the hypothesis that parental effects play a crucial role at the initial stages of population divergence by enabling establishment of populations in novel environments."
Sarah Graham | Scientific American
Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
11.12.2017 | Information Technology