Nav: Home

African bird shows signs of evil stepdad behavior

August 24, 2016

An African desert-dwelling male bird favours his biological sons and alienates his stepsons, suggests research published today in Biological Letters.

"Nepotism has likely played a vital role in the evolution of family life in this species," said Martha Nelson-Flower, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia's faculty of forestry but formerly of the University of Cape Town, where she conducted the research.

The species is the southern pied babbler, a black and white bird found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The bird lives in groups, and chicks are raised by both parents as well as other adult birds. The groups can range in size from three to up to 14 birds.

The group's dominant male bird appears to decide which of the subordinate males to tolerate in the group. Nelson-Flower's research shows subordinate male birds spend less time in a group if they are unrelated to the dominant male bird. These subordinate male birds are essentially pushed out of the group by their stepdads or, in some cases, their brothers-in-law. They are then forced to join other groups as subordinates or to live alone.

Over the course of five years in the summer, Nelson-Flower observed 45 different groups of southern pied babblers in the Kalahari Desert, walking around with the birds at dawn and dusk. She also relied on data collected by her co-author, Amanda Ridley, of the University of Western Australia. Combined, the researchers analyzed data from 11 years of observation.

The preferential treatment seen in the male birds was not observed amongst the females.

"The research is some of the first to show that the sex of both dominant and subordinate birds, and the genetic relationship between them, has a significant impact on their family groups and cooperative breeding behaviour," said Nelson-Flower.

Background

Previous work on the southern pied babbler has shown negative outcomes for birds who live alone for longer periods, including a decreased likelihood of attaining dominance in another group and increased weight loss.
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Evolution Articles:

Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.
Evolution of aesthetic dentistry
One of the main goals of dental treatment is to mimic teeth and design smiles in the most natural and aesthetic manner, based on the individual and specific needs of the patient.
An evolution in the understanding of evolution
In an open-source research paper, a UVA Engineering professor and her former Ph.D. student share a new, more accurate method for modeling evolutionary change.
Chemical evolution -- One-pot wonder
Before life, there was RNA: Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich show how the four different letters of this genetic alphabet could be created from simple precursor molecules on early Earth -- under the same environmental conditions.
Catching evolution in the act
Researchers have produced some of the first evidence that shows that artificial selection and natural selection act on the same genes, a hypothesis predicted by Charles Darwin in 1859.
Guppies teach us why evolution happens
New study on guppies shows that animals evolve in response the the environment they create in the absence of predators, rather than in response to the risk of being eaten.
Undercover evolution
Our individuality is encrypted in our DNA, but it is deeper than expected.
Evolution designed by parasites
In 'Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation,' published in the September 2019 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, Marco Del Giudice explores an overlooked aspect of the relationship between parasites and their hosts by systematically discussing the ways in which parasitic behavior manipulation may encourage the evolution of mechanisms in the host's nervous and endocrine systems.
Tracing the evolution of vision
The function of the visual photopigment rhodopsin and its action in the retina to facilitate vision is well understood.
Directed evolution comes to plants
Accelerating plant evolution with CRISPR paves the way for breeders to engineer new crop varieties.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.