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 Decoding the genome's cryptic language
27.02.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>