Bird ‘paints’ its own eggs with bacteria to protect the embryo

A hoophoe Credit: JC BALLESTEROS

A hoophoe Credit: JC BALLESTEROS

Researchers from the University of Granada and the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) have found that hoophoes cover their eggs with a secretion produced by themselves, loaded with mutualistic bacteria, which is then retained by a specializad structure in the eggshell and which increases successful hatching. So far this sort of behaviour has only been detected in this species of birds, and it is a mechanism to protect their eggs from infections by pathogens.

Through an experiment published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, scientists from several research groups precluded several female hoophoes from impregnating their eggs with this substance, which they produce themselves inside the so-called uropygial gland. The research groups involved in this project were the following: Animal Behaviour and Ecology, Microorganism-Produced Antagonistic Substances, both from the UGR, and Evolutive Ecology and the Behaviour and Conservation groups from the Dry Areas Experimental Station (Almería, CSIC). Continue reading

Researchers Reveal Lifespan of Hummingbirds

hummingbirds

They are admired for their incredible ability to hover in mid-air and to beat their wings at up to 200 times a second.

Now, a new study has uncovered more if the hummingbird’s secrets.

Researchers have discovered the migration patterns of hummingbirds and say they can live for just over a decade – up to five times as long as previously thought.

For the last decade, experts have been placing tiny numbered bands on the legs of birds, enabling researchers to identify a creature – and its vital statistics – when it is recaptured.

The exercise has so far revealed astonishing migrations, with one Rufous hummingbird tagged in Florida showing up six months later more than 3,500 miles (5,630km) away in southeast Alaska. Continue reading

Research identifies drivers of rich bird biodiversity in Neotropics

 Scarlet Macaws are native to Central and northern South America. Various bird sanctuaries exist in Belize, such as the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Scarlet Macaws are native to Central and northern South America. Various bird sanctuaries exist in Belize, such as the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

An international team of researchers is challenging a commonly held view that explains how so many species of birds came to inhabit the Neotropics, an area rich in rain forest that extends from Mexico to the southernmost tip of South America. The new research, published today in the journal Nature, suggests that tropical bird speciation is not directly linked to geological and climate changes, as traditionally thought, but is driven by movements of birds across physical barriers such as mountains and rivers that occur long after those landscapes’ geological origins. Continue reading

Migrating birds sprint in spring, but take things easy in autumn

 Radar station in Falsterbo, Sweden, for tracking migrating birds. Credit: Cecilia Nilsson

Radar station in Falsterbo, Sweden, for tracking migrating birds. Credit: Cecilia Nilsson

Passerine birds, also known as perching birds, that migrate by night tend to fly faster in spring than they do in autumn to reach their destinations. This seasonal difference in flight speed is especially noticeable among birds that only make short migratory flights, says researcher Cecilia Nilsson of Lund University in Sweden, in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Nilsson, in a group led by professor Thomas Alerstam, used a tracking radar to measure over three years the speed by which birds flew over Falsterbo Peninsula, a bird migratory hot spot in south-western Sweden. The seasonal differences they found correspond with those recorded for other nocturnal passerine migrants at other sites in southern and northern Sweden. Continue reading

The ABC’s of animal speech: Not so random after all

theabcsofani

songbird

The calls of many animals, from whales to wolves, might contain more language-like structure than previously thought, according to study that raises new questions about the evolutionary origins of human language.

The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, analyzed the vocal sequences of seven different species of birds and mammals and found that the vocal sequences produced by the animals appear to be generated by complex statistical processes, more akin to human language.

Many species of animals produce complex vocalizations – consider the mockingbird, for example, which can mimic over 100 distinct song types of different species, or the rock hyrax, whose long string of wails, chucks and snorts signify male territory. But while the vocalizations suggest language-like characteristics, scientists have found it difficult to define and identify the complexity. Continue reading

Scientists detect genetic abnormalities in Fukushima birds, insects

In a set of papers published Thursday in the Journal of Heredity, a U.S. publication, Japanese and U.S. scientists warned that radioactive materials released from by the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant could have caused abnormalities in the genes of nearby birds and insects.

One of the experts, Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, called for wide-ranging and long-term research on ecosystems, such as a genetic-level analysis, drawing a comparison with what happened to such species after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in present-day Ukraine. Continue reading