Birds warned of a lack of food by neighboring birds alters the physiology and behavior of readiness

Corvallis, OR. Songbirds learn from neighboring birds that food supplies may grow in short response by altering their physiology and behavior, according to research from the Oregon State University School of Science.

After receiving social information from food-restricted neighbors for three days, the cross-sectional red bills in the study increased their consumption frequency, increased their gut mass and maintained muscle volume responsible for the trip when their later eating opportunities were limited to two short feeding periods per day.

The results of the study by Jamie Cornelius of Ohio State University, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggest that birds can use social information about food shortages to create an adaptive survival advantage.

“This is an entirely new form of physiological plasticity in birds, and it builds on previous work showing that social cues during stress can actually change how the brain processes stress,” said Cornelius, assistant professor of integrative biology.

Cornelius, an ecophysiologist, researches the mechanisms used by wild animals, especially songbirds, as they deal with unexpected and extreme events in their environment, including fluctuations in food availability. Her research combines natural history, endocrinology, and biometrics to seek a better understanding of what limits animal fitness under challenging conditions.

“Animals have all kinds of strategies for coping with challenging environments, from seasonal avoidance strategies such as hibernation or migration to behaviors such as buffering or altering foraging activity,” she said. “Physiological alterations in metabolic rate, digestive capacity, and energy reserves can sometimes accompany behavioral changes, but these things can take time to implement. This means that unpredictable environmental conditions are particularly challenging for many animals.”

Cornelius has shown in previous research that a red beak with a neighbor restricted to food will secrete higher than normal levels of the stress hormone corticosterone during its periods of food stress, and also undergo changes in brain activity that prepare the bird to respond more strongly to a challenge. .

The red-billed, scientifically known as Loxia curvirostra, is a nomadic species that migrates based on food availability and incorporates the calls or behavior of other birds into decision-making about how to respond to food deprivation.

The Crossbill is found throughout Europe and North America, and is a member of the Finch family. They are known, as their name suggests, for their upper and lower beak tips that cross, a feature that helps them pull seeds from conifer cones and other fruits.

“Cross-grain is an interesting study system because of its dependence on pine seeds,” Cornelius said. “Coniferous seed yields are somewhat unpredictable both in where the seed crops develop each year and in how long the seed yield can support birds. We are using Crossbills as a study system to try to understand the strategies that might be available to birds when food is suddenly reduced because it Cross birds may have to deal with this more often than other species.”

In this research, which included cross-billing in captivity, some birds received three days of social information from food-deprived birds before their dietary restrictions; Other birds received three days of social information from food-deprived birds at the same time as food-deprived.

Cornelius refers to the former group of birds as the social predictive focal group and the latter as the parallel social focal group.

“Birds performed better at maintaining body mass during food restriction if social information was predictive of reduced food resources,” she said. “Social information is important for animals in many different contexts, and this study demonstrates a new benefit: advance warning about reduced food intake can lead to better outcomes in times of scarcity.”

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