How environmental changes affect bird behaviors

January 12th, 2011 - 5:28 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 12 (ANI): A new study has shown an important link between the natural variation in climate conditions and complex behaviors among birds.

Researchers Walter Jetz from Yale University and Dustin Rubenstein from Columbia University have suggested that the study may have implications for understanding how organisms respond behaviorally to increased climate variability resulting from climate change.

They argued that species that live in families might be better guarded against the effects of unpredictable climatic conditions.

Using a behavioral data set of more than 95 percent of the world’s birds, and a global 40-year climate dataset, the researchers examined how environmental factors-like mean and variation in temperature and rainfall-and biotic factors-like body mass, diet breadth and type-influence the incidence and global distribution of family-living in birds.

By combining behavioral and climate data in a statistical modeling framework the researchers found dramatic spatial and environmental variation in social behavior globally.

“We discovered ‘hot-spots’ in places like Australia and Africa where family-living species are overrepresented, as well as ‘cold-spots’ in places like South and Central America where there are fewer family-living species than we would have expected,” said Jetz.

The study demonstrates that even on a global scale, the incidence of complex avian social behavior may be greatly influenced by the consequences of living in unpredictable environments.

Variable environments encompass a broad range of climate conditions that pose a greater range of challenges to survival and reproduction than predictable ones. Family-living among birds may therefore be a conservative ‘best of a bad job’ strategy to maximize fitness when breeding conditions vary unpredictably from year to year.

The findings appeared in the journal Current Biology. (ANI)

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