Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)

Seewiesen, Germany

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)

Seewiesen, Germany
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Beckers G.J.L.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Gahr M.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2012

Auditory systems bias responses to sounds that are unexpected on the basis of recent stimulus history, a phenomenon that has been widely studied using sequences of unmodulated tones (mismatch negativity; stimulus-specific adaptation). Such a paradigm, however, does not directly reflect problems that neural systems normally solve for adaptive behavior. We recorded multiunit responses in the caudomedial auditory forebrain of anesthetized zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) at 32 sites simultaneously, to contact calls that recur probabilistically at a rate that is used in communication. Neurons in secondary, but not primary, auditory areas respond preferentially to calls when they are unexpected (deviant) compared with the same calls when they are expected (standard). This response bias is predominantly due to sites more often not responding to standard events than to deviant events. When two call stimuli alternate between standard and deviant roles, most sites exhibit a response bias to deviant events of both stimuli. This suggests that biases are not based on a use-dependent decrease in response strength but involve a more complex mechanism that is sensitive to auditory deviance per se. Furthermore, between many secondary sites, responses are tightly synchronized, a phenomenon that is driven by internal neuronal interactions rather than by the timing of stimulus acoustic features. We hypothesize that this deviance-sensitive, internally synchronized network of neurons is involved in the involuntary capturing of attention by unexpected and behaviorally potentially relevant events in natural auditory scenes. © 2012 the authors.

Nakagawa S.,University of Otago | Nakagawa S.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Schielzeth H.,Bielefeld University
Methods in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2013

The use of both linear and generalized linear mixed-effects models (LMMs and GLMMs) has become popular not only in social and medical sciences, but also in biological sciences, especially in the field of ecology and evolution. Information criteria, such as Akaike Information Criterion (AIC), are usually presented as model comparison tools for mixed-effects models. The presentation of 'variance explained' (R2) as a relevant summarizing statistic of mixed-effects models, however, is rare, even though R2 is routinely reported for linear models (LMs) and also generalized linear models (GLMs). R2 has the extremely useful property of providing an absolute value for the goodness-of-fit of a model, which cannot be given by the information criteria. As a summary statistic that describes the amount of variance explained, R2 can also be a quantity of biological interest. One reason for the under-appreciation of R2 for mixed-effects models lies in the fact that R2 can be defined in a number of ways. Furthermore, most definitions of R2 for mixed-effects have theoretical problems (e.g. decreased or negative R2 values in larger models) and/or their use is hindered by practical difficulties (e.g. implementation). Here, we make a case for the importance of reporting R2 for mixed-effects models. We first provide the common definitions of R2 for LMs and GLMs and discuss the key problems associated with calculating R2 for mixed-effects models. We then recommend a general and simple method for calculating two types of R2 (marginal and conditional R2) for both LMMs and GLMMs, which are less susceptible to common problems. This method is illustrated by examples and can be widely employed by researchers in any fields of research, regardless of software packages used for fitting mixed-effects models. The proposed method has the potential to facilitate the presentation of R2 for a wide range of circumstances. © 2012 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution © 2012 British Ecological Society.

Steiger S.S.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Circadian clocks are centrally involved in the regulation of daily behavioural and physiological processes. These clocks are synchronized to the 24 h day by external cues (Zeitgeber), the most important of which is the light-dark cycle. In polar environments, however, the strength of the Zeitgeber is greatly reduced around the summer and winter solstices (continuous daylight or continuous darkness). How animals time their behaviour under such conditions has rarely been studied in the wild. Using a radio-telemetry-based system, we investigated daily activity rhythms under continuous daylight in Barrow, Alaska, throughout the breeding season in four bird species that differ in mating system and parental behaviour. We found substantial diversity in daily activity rhythms depending on species, sex and breeding stage. Individuals exhibited either robust, entrained 24 h activity cycles, were continuously active (arrhythmic) or showed 'free-running' activity cycles. In semipalmated sandpipers, a shorebird with biparental incubation, we show that the free-running rhythm is synchronized between pair mates. The diversity of diel time-keeping under continuous daylight emphasizes the plasticity of the circadian system, and the importance of the social and life-history context. Our results support the idea that circadian behaviour can be adaptively modified to enable species-specific time-keeping under polar conditions.

Mutzel A.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

Repeatable behavioural traits ('personality') have been shown to covary with fitness, but it remains poorly understood how such behaviour-fitness relationships come about. We applied a multivariate approach to reveal the mechanistic pathways by which variation in exploratory and aggressive behaviour is translated into variation in reproductive success in a natural population of blue tits, Cyanistes caeruleus. Using path analysis, we demonstrate a key role for provisioning behaviour in mediating the link between personality and reproductive success (number of fledged offspring). Aggressive males fed their nestlings at lower rates than less aggressive individuals. At the same time, their low parental investment was associated with increased female effort, thereby positively affecting fledgling production. Whereas male exploratory behaviour was unrelated to provisioning behaviour and reproductive success, fast-exploring females fed their offspring at higher rates and initiated breeding earlier, thus increasing reproductive success. Our findings provide strong support for specific mechanistic pathways linking components of behavioural syndromes to reproductive success. Importantly, relationships between behavioural phenotypes and reproductive success were obscured when considering simple bivariate relationships, underlining the importance of adopting multivariate views and statistical tools as path analysis to the study of behavioural evolution.

Nemeth E.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

When animals live in cities, they have to adjust their behaviour and life histories to novel environments. Noise pollution puts a severe constraint on vocal communication by interfering with the detection of acoustic signals. Recent studies show that city birds sing higher-frequency songs than their conspecifics in non-urban habitats. This has been interpreted as an adaptation to counteract masking by traffic noise. However, this notion is debated, for the observed frequency shifts seem to be less efficient at mitigating noise than singing louder, and it has been suggested that city birds might use particularly high-frequency song elements because they can be produced at higher amplitudes. Here, we present the first phonetogram for a songbird, which shows that frequency and amplitude are strongly positively correlated in the common blackbird (Turdus merula), a successful urban colonizer. Moreover, city blackbirds preferentially sang higher-frequency elements that can be produced at higher intensities and, at the same time, happen to be less masked in low-frequency traffic noise.

Teschke I.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences | Year: 2013

The use and manufacture of tools have been considered to be cognitively demanding and thus a possible driving factor in the evolution of intelligence. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that enhanced physical cognitive abilities evolved in conjunction with the use of tools, by comparing the performance of naturally tool-using and non-tool-using species in a suite of physical and general learning tasks. We predicted that the habitually tool-using species, New Caledonian crows and Galápagos woodpecker finches, should outperform their non-tool-using relatives, the small tree finches and the carrion crows in a physical problem but not in general learning tasks. We only found a divergence in the predicted direction for corvids. That only one of our comparisons supports the predictions under this hypothesis might be attributable to different complexities of tool-use in the two tool-using species. A critical evaluation is offered of the conceptual and methodological problems inherent in comparative studies on tool-related cognitive abilities.

Greif S.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Siemers B.M.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen)
Nature Communications | Year: 2010

In the course of their lives, most animals must find different specific habitat and microhabitat types for survival and reproduction. Yet, in vertebrates, little is known about the sensory cues that mediate habitat recognition. In free flying bats the echolocation of insect-sized point targets is well understood, whereas how they recognize and classify spatially extended echo targets is currently unknown. In this study, we show how echolocating bats recognize ponds or other water bodies that are crucial for foraging, drinking and orientation. With wild bats of 15 different species (seven genera from three phylogenetically distant, large bat families), we found that bats perceived any extended, echo-acoustically smooth surface to be water, even in the presence of conflicting information from other sensory modalities. In addition, naive juvenile bats that had never before encountered a water body showed spontaneous drinking responses from smooth plates. This provides the first evidence for innate recognition of a habitat cue in a mammal. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Araya-Ajoy Y.G.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Araya-Ajoy Y.G.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2014

Biologists often study phenotypic evolution assuming that phenotypes consist of a set of quasi-independent units that have been shaped by selection to accomplish a particular function. In the evolutionary literature, such quasi-independent functional units are called 'evolutionary characters', and a framework based on evolutionary principles has been developed to characterize them. This framework mainly focuses on 'fixed' characters, i.e. those that vary exclusively between individuals. In this paper, we introduce multi-level variation and thereby expand the framework to labile characters, focusing on behaviour as a worked example. We first propose a concept of 'behavioural characters' based on the original evolutionary character concept. We then detail how integration of variation between individuals (cf. 'personality') and within individuals (cf. 'individual plasticity') into the framework gives rise to a whole suite of novel testable predictions about the evolutionary character concept. We further propose a corresponding statistical methodology to test whether observed behaviours should be considered expressions of a hypothesized evolutionary character. We illustrate the application of our framework by characterizing the behavioural character 'aggressiveness' in wild great tits, Parus major.

Dingemanse N.J.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Wolf M.,Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2010

In this paper we review recent models that provide adaptive explanations for animal personalities: individual differences in behaviour (or suites of correlated behaviours) that are consistent over time or contexts. We start by briefly discussing patterns of variation in behaviour that have been documented in natural populations. In the main part of the paper we discuss models for personality differences that (i) explain animal personalities as adaptive behavioural responses to differences in state, (ii) investigate how feedbacks between state and behaviour can stabilize initial differences among individuals and (iii) provide adaptive explanations for animal personalities that are not based on state differences. Throughout, we focus on two basic questions. First, what is the basic conceptual idea underlying the model? Second, what are the key assumptions and predictions of the model? We conclude by discussing empirical features of personalities that have not yet been addressed by formal modelling. While this paper is primarily intended to guide empiricists through current adaptive theory, thereby stimulating empirical tests of these models, we hope it also inspires theoreticians to address aspects of personalities that have received little attention up to now. © 2010 The Royal Society.

A model of avian goal-oriented navigation is described that is based on two empirical findings building a bridge from ornithology to atmospheric chemistry. (1) To orient their courses homeward from distant unfamiliar areas, homing pigeons require long-term exposure to undisturbed winds at the home site and olfactory access to the environmental air at home and abroad. (2) Above Germany, ratios among some atmospheric trace gases vary along differently oriented spatial gradients as well as depending on wind direction. The model emulates finding (1) by utilising the analysed air samples on which finding (2) is based. Starting with an available set of 46 omnipresent compounds, virtual pigeons determine the profile of relative weights among them at each of 96 sites regularly distributed around a central home site within a radius of 200 km and compare this profile with corresponding profiles determined at home under varying wind conditions. Referring to particular similarities and dissimilarities depending on home-wind direction, they try to estimate, at each site, the compass direction they should fly in order to approach home. To make the model work, an iterative algorithm imitates evolution by modifying sensitivity to the individual compounds stepwise at random. In the course of thousands of trial-and-error steps it gradually improves homeward orientation by selecting smaller sets of most useful and optimally weighted substances from whose proportional configurations at home and abroad it finally derives navigational performances similar to those accomplished by real pigeons. It is concluded that the dynamic chemical atmosphere most likely contains sufficient spatial information for home-finding over hundreds of kilometres of unfamiliar terrain. The underlying chemo-atmospheric processes remain to be clarified. © Author(s) 2013. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

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