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Gardner J.L.,Australian National University | Peters A.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell) | Peters A.,Monash University | Kearney M.R.,University of Melbourne | And 2 more authors.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2011

A recently documented correlate of anthropogenic climate change involves reductions in body size, the nature and scale of the pattern leading to suggestions of a third universal response to climate warming. Because body size affects thermoregulation and energetics, changing body size has implications for resilience in the face of climate change. A review of recent studies shows heterogeneity in the magnitude and direction of size responses, exposing a need for large-scale phylogenetically controlled comparative analyses of temporal size change. Integrative analyses of museum data combined with new theoretical models of size-dependent thermoregulatory and metabolic responses will increase both understanding of the underlying mechanisms and physiological consequences of size shifts and, therefore, the ability to predict the sensitivities of species to climate change. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Riehl C.,Princeton University | Riehl C.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell)
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2011

The greater ani (Crotophaga major), a Neotropical cuckoo, exhibits an unusual breeding system in which several socially monogamous pairs lay eggs in a single nest and contribute care to the communal clutch. Cooperative nesting is costly-females compete for reproduction by ejecting each other's eggs-but the potential direct or indirect fitness benefits that might accrue to group members have not been identified. In this study, I used molecular genotyping to quantify patterns of genetic relatedness and individual reproductive success within social groups in a single colour-banded population. Microsatellite analysis of 122 individuals in 49 groups revealed that group members are not genetic relatives. Group size was strongly correlated with individual reproductive success: solitary pairs were extremely rare and never successful, and nests attended by two pairs were significantly more likely to be depredated than were nests attended by three pairs. Egg loss, a consequence of reproductive competition, was greater in large groups and disproportionately affected females that initiated laying. However, early-laying females compensated for egg losses by laying larger clutches, and female group members switched positions in the laying order across nesting attempts. The greater ani, therefore, appears to be one of the few species in which cooperative breeding among unrelated individuals is favoured by direct, shared benefits that outweigh the substantial costs of reproductive competition. © 2010 The Royal Society.

Holland R.A.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell)
Journal of the Royal Society Interface | Year: 2010

In migratory passerine birds, strong magnetic pulses are thought to be diagnostic of the remagnetization of iron minerals in a putative sensory system contained in the beak. Previous evidence suggests that while such a magnetic pulse affects the orientation of migratory birds in orientation cages, no effect was present when pulse-treated birds were tested in natural migration. Here we show that two migrating passerine birds treated with a strong magnetic pulse, designed to alter the magnetic sense, migrated in a direction that differed significantly from that of controls when tested in natural conditions. The orientation of treated birds was different depending on the alignment of the pulse with respect to the magnetic field. These results can aid in advancing understanding of how the putative iron-mineral-based receptors found in birds' beaks may be used to detect and signal the intensity and/or direction of the Earth's magnetic field. © 2010 The Royal Society.

Delhey K.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell)
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Colour signals are expected to match visual sensitivities of intended receivers. In birds, evolutionary shifts from violet-sensitive (V-type) to ultraviolet-sensitive (U-type) vision have been linked to increased prevalence of colours rich in shortwave reflectance (ultraviolet/blue), presumably due to better perception of such colours by U-type vision. Here we provide the first test of this widespread idea using fairy-wrens and allies (Family Maluridae) as a model, a family where shifts in visual sensitivities from V- to U-type eyes are associated with male nuptial plumage rich in ultraviolet/blue colours. Using psychophysical visual models, we compared the performance of both types of visual systems at two tasks: (i) detecting contrast between male plumage colours and natural backgrounds, and (ii) perceiving intraspecific chromatic variation in male plumage. While U-type outperforms V-type vision at both tasks, the crucial test here is whether U-type vision performs better at detecting and discriminating ultraviolet/blue colours when compared with other colours. This was true for detecting contrast between plumage colours and natural backgrounds (i), but not for discriminating intraspecific variability (ii). Our data indicate that selection to maximize conspicuousness to conspecifics may have led to the correlation between ultraviolet/blue colours and U-type vision in this clade of birds.

Dominoni D.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell)
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Artificial light at night is a rapidly increasing phenomenon and it is presumed to have global implications. Light at night has been associated with health problems in humans as a consequence of altered biological rhythms. Effects on wild animals have been less investigated, but light at night has often been assumed to affect seasonal cycles of urban dwellers. Using light loggers attached to free-living European blackbirds (Turdus merula), we first measured light intensity at night which forest and city birds are subjected to in the wild. Then we used these measurements to test for the effect of light at night on timing of reproductive physiology. Captive city and forest blackbirds were exposed to either dark nights or very low light intensities at night (0.3 lux). Birds exposed to light at night developed their reproductive system up to one month earlier, and also moulted earlier, than birds kept under dark nights. Furthermore, city birds responded differently than forest individuals to the light at night treatment, suggesting that urbanization can alter the physiological phenotype of songbirds. Our results emphasize the impact of human-induced lighting on the ecology of millions of animals living in cities and call for an understanding of the fitness consequences of light pollution.

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