Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 501706
Title Unpredictable environments lead to the evolution of parental neglect in birds
Author(s) Caro, Shana M.; Griffin, Ashleigh S.; Hinde, Camilla A.; West, Stuart A.
Source Nature Communications 7 (2016). - ISSN 2041-1723
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10985
Department(s) Behavioural Ecology
PE&RC
WIAS
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Abstract

A nest of begging chicks invites an intuitive explanation: needy chicks want to be fed and parents want to feed them. Surprisingly, however, in a quarter of species studied, parents ignore begging chicks. Furthermore, parents in some species even neglect smaller chicks that beg more, and preferentially feed the biggest chicks that beg less. This extreme variation across species, which contradicts predictions from theory, represents a major outstanding problem for the study of animal signalling. We analyse parent-offspring communication across 143 bird species, and show that this variation correlates with ecological differences. In predictable and good environments, chicks in worse condition beg more, and parents preferentially feed those chicks. In unpredictable and poor environments, parents pay less attention to begging, and instead rely on size cues or structural signals of quality. Overall, these results show how ecological variation can lead to different signalling systems being evolutionarily stable in different species.

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