Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers show environmental changes may affect vital cooperate bird behaviors

12.01.2011
While scientists believe that climate change and related extreme weather events such as drought and flooding will likely affect the earth's flora and fauna, just how much is not known. A new study by researchers Walter Jetz from Yale University and Dustin Rubenstein from Columbia University however shows an important link between the natural variation in climate conditions and complex behaviors among birds.

The study, which appears in print in Current Biology on Jan. 11, 2011, has implications for understanding how organisms may respond behaviorally to increased climate variability resulting from climate change. They argue that species that live in families may be better guarded against the effects of unpredictable climatic conditions.

Family-living, or cooperative breeding, is common among birds. Cooperative breeding societies, such as humans, are typically characterized by groups of relatives that work together to raise young. Usually, some birds forgo their own reproduction to help raise others' offspring. However, some cooperative breeding societies consist of groups of non-relatives that also work together in raising young. From Australia to the Amazon, cooperatively breeding birds account for approximately 831 species—or nearly 10 percent—of the nearly 10,000 avian species worldwide.

Using a behavioral data set of more than 95 percent of the world's birds, and a global 40-year climate dataset, the researchers examined how environmental factors—like mean and variation in temperature and rainfall—and biotic factors—like body mass, diet breadth and type—influence the incidence and global distribution of family-living in birds.

"Scientists have long known that family-living birds are more common in some parts of the world than others," said Rubenstein, assistant professor of ecology, evolution & environmental biology. "But this is the first time that we have been able to study the geographic distribution of complex avian social behavior on a global scale, while simultaneously examining how the environment influences these geographic patterns."

By combining behavioral and climate data in a statistical modeling framework the researchers found dramatic spatial and environmental variation in social behavior globally. "We discovered 'hot-spots' in places like Australia and Africa where family-living species are overrepresented, as well as 'cold-spots' in places like South and Central America where there are fewer family-living species than we would have expected," said Jetz. This geographic unevenness coincided with the occurrence of specific bird lineages, but also carried a strong signal of environmental and biotic factors. In particular, among year variation, or climatic uncertainty, in rainfall emerged as a key predictor of family-living in birds.

The study demonstrates that even on a global scale, the incidence of complex avian social behavior may be greatly influenced by the consequences of living in unpredictable environments. Variable environments encompass a broad range of climate conditions that pose a greater range of challenges to survival and reproduction than predictable ones. Family-living among birds may therefore be a conservative "'best of a bad job'' strategy to maximize fitness when breeding conditions vary unpredictably from year to year.

"Families act as insurance against environmental uncertainty," said Rubenstein. "Just as predicting a drop in the stock market is difficult, so too is determining when food is going to be scarce." When times are bad and food is difficult to find, joining up to raise young may pay off for both parents and helpers.

This thinking may have implications for an entirely different group of animals: humans. "Think twice," cautions Rubenstein, "before you kick your grown kids out of the house, as you never know when you might need them."

About Columbia University

A leading academic and research university, Columbia continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia's extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships help define the University's underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King's College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. To learn more, visit www.columbia.edu.

Media contact: Clare Oh, clare.oh@columbia.edu or 212-854-5479

To contact the scientist: Dustin Rubinstein, dr2497@columbia.edu

Clare Oh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.columbia.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

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...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

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...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

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...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

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...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>