Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior News
Researchers at the University of Illinois have shown through a multi-year study that cowbirds (Molothrus ater) conform to Bateman’s Principle, which holds that reproductive success is greater in males than in females when they have more mates. Cowbirds are distinct from 99% of other bird species in that they are brood parasites and lay their eggs in nests of birds of other species for them to raise. The researchers confirm a 70-year old theory that males in this species are more likely than females to have greater variation in the number of offspring they produce.
Many new parents are familiar with terms like “baby brain” or “mommy brain” that hint at an unavoidable decline in cognitive function associated with the hormonal changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and maternal caregiving. A new study of parental care in stickleback fish is a reminder that such parenting-induced changes in the brain and associated shifts in cognition and behavior are not just for females—and they’re not just for mammals either.
Just as humans are usually left- or right-handed, other species sometimes prefer one appendage, or eye, over the other. A new study reveals that American robins that preferentially use one eye significantly more than the other when looking at their own clutch of eggs are also more likely to detect, and reject, a foreign egg placed in their nest by another bird species – or by a devious scientist.
A Bruker 9.4 Tesla preclinical animal MRI system will be sited at the Beckman Institute. The addition of the system to the institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center will aid in research in many areas, including brain development and function, and cellular mechanisms in cancer. The installation project will begin this fall and is expected to take a year.
Mark Hauber broadens our understanding of the avian world
Like other vipers, puff adder skulls have hinged jaws that deploy the fangs when the animal opens its mouth to strike.
Animal biology professor Christina Cheng and her colleagues determined how the gene for an antifreeze protein in Arctic fish evolved from noncoding DNA.
The mandibles of the Dracula ant, Mystrium camillae, are the fastest known moving animal appendages, snapping shut at speeds of up to 90 meters per second.
The spines of Cylindropuntia fulgida, also known as jumping cholla, have a reproductive role. They latch on to passersby and carry small chunks of cactus flesh to new locations.