During the breeding season, polygynous male pectoral sandpipers that sleep the least sire the most young. A team of researchers headed by Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen has now discovered this extraordinary relationship.
An attentive male sandpiper on the lookout for potential competitors.
© Wolfgang Forstmeier
Courtship flight: This male is trying to impress any watching female sandpipers with its feats of flight and inflated chest.
© Wolfgang Forstmeier
During three weeks of intense competition under the constant daylight of the Arctic summer, males actively court females and compete with other males. Using an innovative combination of tags that monitored movement, male-female interactions, and brain activity in conjunction with DNA paternity testing, the authors discovered that the most sleepless males were the most successful in producing young. As the first evidence for adaptive sleep loss, these results challenge the commonly held view that reduced performance is an evolutionarily inescapable outcome of sleep loss.Sometimes it would be nice to have 24 hours available to finish the workload of the day. However, the drive for sleep inevitably compromises our performance or even causes us to fall asleep under dangerous situations, such as driving a car. Daily sleep is therefore thought to be essential for regenerating the brain and maintaining performance. This holds true both for humans and other animals. Researchers led by Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen have now found that during the three-week mating period male pectoral sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) are active for up to 95% of the time. This is even more remarkable considering the fact that the birds have just arrived in their breeding area in Alaska, after migrating from their overwintering grounds in the southern hemisphere.
Prof. Dr. Bart Kempenaers | Max-Planck-Institute
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