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
Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
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...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
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...
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...
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...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences