Anthropogenic disturbances of wildlife, such as noise, human presence, hunting activity, and motor vehicles, are becoming an increasing concern in conservation biology. Fireworks are an important part of celebrations worldwide, and although humans often find fireworks spectacular, fireworks are probably perceived quite differently by wild animals. Behavioral responses to fireworks are difficult to study at night, and little is known about the negative effects fireworks may have on wildlife. Every year, thousands of tons of fireworks are lit by civilians on New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. Using an operational weather radar, we quantified the reaction of birds to fireworks in 3 consecutive years. Thousands of birds took flight shortly after midnight, with high aerial movements lasting at least 45 min and peak densities measured at 500 m altitude. The highest densities were observed over grasslands and wetlands, including nature conservation sites, where thousands of waterfowl rest and feed. The Netherlands is the most important winter staging area for several species of waterfowl in Europe. We estimate that hundreds of thousands of birds in the Netherlands take flight due to fireworks. The spatial and temporal extent of disturbance is substantial, and potential consequences are discussed. Weather radar provides a unique opportunity to study the reaction of birds to fireworks, which has otherwise remained elusive.
birds; disturbance; fireworks; flight; Natura 2000; radar; waterfowl
Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.
color signaling; communication; receiver perception; visual discrimination threshold modeling
The relative amount of resources that avian parents provide to individual offspring within a brood represents a strategy that can have large effects on reproductive success. We tested whether parental feeding decisions of eastern bluebirds Sialia sialis are influenced by offspring plumage color by presenting pairs of differently colored fledglings side by side and observing how they were provisioned by parents. After a control period, we manipulated blue plumage color so that one sibling in each trial became relatively dark and one became relatively bright. During neither the control nor the experimental periods did either parent consistently feed naturally brighter or experimentally brightened sons more than drab sons. Under specific circumstances, however, both parents directed a higher proportion of their feeding attempts to more brightly colored sons. Paternal feeding attempts to brighter offspring during both the control and experimental periods increased in relation to the brightness of these fledglings relative to their brothers. Maternal feeding decision, on the other hand, were influenced by numerous variables during control and experimental periods including the date of the trial, the difference in mass between fledglings, the feeding behavior of fathers during the trial, the relative investment by fathers during the nestling stage, and the amount of UV chroma in fledgling plumage. Taken together, these results suggest that equal provisioning of offspring is the strategy most commonly adopted by eastern bluebirds but more brightly colored offspring will be fed preferentially when resources for offspring are limited.
color; juvenal plumage; ornaments; parent–offspring interactions; plumage; relative parental investment; Sialia sialis
Sexually reproducing organisms should mate with the highest quality individuals that they can. When female songbirds choose a mate, they are thought to use several aspects of male song that reflect his quality. Under resource-limited environmental conditions, male Lincoln's sparrows (Melospiza lincolnii) vary among one another in several aspects of song quality, including song length, song complexity, and trill performance. In a 2-pronged approach, we tested whether variation in song quality of male Lincoln's sparrows influences the behavior of females that are in a reproductive-like state. Over two trials, we exposed females to songs from the high and low ends of the distribution of naturally occurring song quality variation and found a higher level of behavioral activity in females exposed to high-quality songs, especially when they had first been exposed to low-quality songs. We also examined female phonotaxis toward antiphonally played songs with experimentally elevated and reduced trill performance and found that females moved preferentially toward the songs with elevated trill performance. Contrary to most studies investigating the behavioral responses of wild, female songbirds to variation in male song, we obtained our results without administering exogenous estradiol, which can artificially perturb the female's physiology. Our results demonstrate that the behavior of female Lincoln's sparrows is modulated by the quality of male songs to which they are exposed and that trill performance plays a significant role in this behavioral modulation. Furthermore, as the order of song quality presentation matters, it appears that recent song experience also influences female behavior.
bird song; mate choice; Melospiza lincolnii; phonotaxis; sexual selection; song playback; trill performance; vocal performance
Chemical signaling has been documented in many animals, but its potential importance in avian species, particularly songbirds, has received far less attention. We tested whether volatile compounds in the preen oil of a songbird (Junco hyemalis) contain reliable information about individual identity, sex, or population of origin by repeated sampling from captive male and female juncos originating from 2 recently diverged junco populations in southern California. One of the populations recently colonized an urban environment; the other resides in a species-typical montane environment. The birds were field-caught as juveniles, housed under identical conditions, and fed the same diet for 10 months prior to sampling. We used capillary gas chromatography–mass spectrometry to quantify the relative abundance of 19 volatile compounds previously shown to vary seasonally in this species. We found individual repeatability as well as significant sex and population differences in volatile profiles. The persistence of population differences in a common environment suggests that preen oil chemistry likely has a genetic basis and may thus evolve rapidly in response to environmental change. These finding suggest that songbird preen oil odors have the potential to function as chemosignals associated with mate recognition or reproductive isolation.
birds; chemical communication; Junco hyemalis; olfaction; pheromones
In many animal taxa, prior contest experience affects future performance such that winning increases the chances of winning in the future (winner effect) and losing increases the chances of losing in the future (loser effect). It is, however, not clear whether this pattern typically arises from experience effects on actual or perceived fighting ability (or both). In this study, we looked at winner and loser effects in the jumping spider Phidippus clarus. We assigned winning or losing experience to spiders and tested them against opponents of similar fighting ability in subsequent contests at 1-, 2-, 5-, and 24-h intervals. We examined the strength of winner and loser effects, how long effects persist, as well as how experience affected perceived and actual fighting ability. Our results demonstrate that winner and loser effects are of approximately the same magnitude, although loser effects last longer than winner effects. Our results also demonstrate that previous experience alters actual fighting ability because both the assessment and escalation periods were affected by experience. We suggest that the retention time of experience effects depends on expected encounter rates as well as other behavioral and ecological factors. In systems with short breeding seasons and/or rapidly fluctuating populations, context-dependent retention of experience effects may allow males to track their status relative to the fluctuating fighting ability of local competitors without paying the costs necessary to recall or assess individual competitors.
contest experience; fighting ability; male–male competition; perceived RHP; Phidippus clarus; winner and loser effect
One of the most fascinating examples of parasite-induced host manipulation is that of hairworms, first, because they induce a spectacular “suicide” water-seeking behavior in their terrestrial insect hosts and, second, because the emergence of the parasite is not lethal per se for the host that can live several months following parasite release. The mechanisms hairworms use to increase the encounter rate between their host and water remain, however, poorly understood. Considering the selective landscape in which nematomorph manipulation has evolved as well as previously obtained proteomics data, we predicted that crickets harboring mature hairworms would display a modified behavioral response to light. Since following parasite emergence in water, the cricket host and parasitic worm do not interact physiologically anymore, we also predicted that the host would recover from the modified behaviors. We examined the effect of hairworm infection on different behavioral responses of the host when stimulated by light to record responses from uninfected, infected, and ex-infected crickets. We showed that hairworm infection fundamentally modifies cricket behavior by inducing directed responses to light, a condition from which they mostly recover once the parasite is released. This study supports the idea that host manipulation by parasites is subtle, complex, and multidimensional.
behavior; insects; nematomorph; parasite manipulation; parasitism; phototaxis
Slave-making ants reduce the fitness of surrounding host colonies through regular raids, causing the loss of brood and frequently queen and worker death. Consequently, hosts developed defenses against slave raids such as specific recognition and aggression toward social parasites, and indeed, we show that host ants react more aggressively toward slavemakers than toward nonparasitic competitors. Permanent behavioral defenses can be costly, and if social parasite impact varies in time and space, inducible defenses, which are only expressed after slavemaker detection, can be adaptive. We demonstrate for the first time an induced defense against slave-making ants: Cues from the slavemaker Protomognathus americanus caused an unspecific but long-lasting behavioral response in Temnothorax host ants. A 5-min within-nest encounter with a dead slavemaker raised the aggression level in T. longispinosus host colonies. Contrarily, encounters with nonparasitic competitors did not elicit aggressive responses toward non-nestmates. Increased aggression can be adaptive if a slavemaker encounter reliably indicates a forthcoming attack and if aggression increases postraid survival. Host aggression was elevated over 3 days, showing the ability of host ants to remember parasite encounters. The response disappeared after 2 weeks, possibly because by then the benefits of increased aggression counterbalance potential costs associated with it.
aggression; behavior; parasites; phenotypic plasticity; social insects
The mandibular glands of queen honeybees produce a pheromone that modulates many aspects of worker honeybee physiology and behavior and is critical for colony social organization. The exact chemical blend produced by the queen differs between virgin and mated, laying queens. Here, we investigate the role of mating and reproductive state on queen pheromone production and worker responses. Virgin queens, naturally mated queens, and queens instrumentally inseminated with either semen or saline were collected 2 days after mating or insemination. Naturally mated queens had the most activated ovaries and the most distinct chemical profile in their mandibular glands. Instrumentally inseminated queens were intermediate between virgins and naturally mated queens for both ovary activation and chemical profiles. There were no significant differences between semen- and saline-inseminated queens. Workers were preferentially attracted to the mandibular gland extracts from queens with significantly more activated ovaries. These studies suggest that the queen pheromone blend is modulated by the reproductive status of the queens, and workers can detect these subtle differences and are more responsive to queens with higher reproductive potential. Furthermore, it appears as if insemination substance does not strongly affect physiological characteristics of honeybee queens 2 days after insemination, suggesting that the insemination process or volume is responsible for stimulating these early postmating changes in honeybee queens.
behavior; caste; chemical communication; pheromone; reproduction; social insect
GIS; Moran's I; spatial analysis
Mixed-effect models are frequently used to control for the nonindependence of data points, for example, when repeated measures from the same individuals are available. The aim of these models is often to estimate fixed effects and to test their significance. This is usually done by including random intercepts, that is, intercepts that are allowed to vary between individuals. The widespread belief is that this controls for all types of pseudoreplication within individuals. Here we show that this is not the case, if the aim is to estimate effects that vary within individuals and individuals differ in their response to these effects. In these cases, random intercept models give overconfident estimates leading to conclusions that are not supported by the data. By allowing individuals to differ in the slopes of their responses, it is possible to account for the nonindependence of data points that pseudoreplicate slope information. Such random slope models give appropriate standard errors and are easily implemented in standard statistical software. Because random slope models are not always used where they are essential, we suspect that many published findings have too narrow confidence intervals and a substantially inflated type I error rate. Besides reducing type I errors, random slope models have the potential to reduce residual variance by accounting for between-individual variation in slopes, which makes it easier to detect treatment effects that are applied between individuals, hence reducing type II errors as well.
experimental design; maternal effects; mixed-effect models; random regression; repeated measures; type I error
In monogamous species that exhibit extensive biparental investment, such as termites, both sexes are predicted to be selective when choosing a mate. Size-related traits are expected to be important in partner selection because the fat reserves of the colony founders sustain the incipient colony. Partner relatedness and heterozygosity determine the degree of inbreeding and genetic diversity within the colony and may thus also influence partner selection. To test these predictions, we investigated whether phenotypic and genetic traits influence mate choice and/or competitive advantage during pair formation of Formosan subterranean termites, Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Pair formation in termites normally occurs within a short period after swarming when alates form tandem pairs on the ground. Alates were collected from 5 light trap samples in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA. From each sample, both tandem pairs and single individuals were collected and their sex, body weights, and head widths were recorded. Pairwise relatedness and individual levels of heterozygosity were determined by microsatellite genotyping. Males in tandem pairs with females had a significantly larger head width than males that did not form tandem pairs. Weights as well as head widths of tandem running partners were positively correlated. For the majority of the samples, relatedness between tandem partners did not differ from the relatedness to members of the other tandem pairs. Thus, no kin discrimination occurred during tandem running. However, females engaged in tandem running had a higher degree of heterozygosity than females that remained single. These findings suggest partner selection and/or competitive advantage based on size-related phenotypic parameters and genetic diversity. The pairing advantage of heterozygous females might explain previous findings of sex-biased alate production depending on the degree of inbreeding in colonies of several species of the genus Coptotermes.
Isoptera; mate choice; microsatellite genotyping; morphometry; relatedness; Rhinotermitidae; sexual selection
Interpreting receiver responses to on-territory playback of aggressive signals is problematic. One solution is to combine such receiver-perspective experiments with a sender-perspective experiment that allows subjects to demonstrate how their choice of singing strategies is associated with their approach behavior. Here we report the results of a sender-perspective study on the banded wren (Thryothorus pleurostictus), and combine information on context and results of previous receiver-perspective experiments to clarify function. Territorial males were presented with a 5-min playback consisting of song types present in their repertoire. We assessed the degree to which the subjects’ song matching rate, overlapping rate, and song-type versatility were correlated with their approach latency, closeness of approach, latency to first retreat, and time spent close to the speaker. Male age, breeding stage, and features of the playback stimuli were also considered. Song matching was associated with rapid and close approach, consistent with the receiver-perspective interpretation of type matching as a conventional signal of aggressive motivation. Overlapping was associated with earlier retreat, and together with the aversive receiver response to our previous overlapping playback experiment suggests that overlapping is a defensive withdrawal signal. High versatility was associated with slower first retreat from the speaker and high levels of reciprocal matching between subject and playback. Males with fledglings sang with particularly low versatility and approached the speaker aggressively, whereas males with nestlings overlapped more and retreated quickly. Finally, older males matched more but overlapped less.
Aggressive motivation; playback design; path analysis; signal function; singing versatility; song-type repertoires
We tested the signal value of song overlapping in banded wrens (Thryothorus pleurostictus), using interactive playback to either overlap or alternate with their songs. Males shortened song duration and decreased variability in song length when their songs were overlapped by playback, suggesting that they were attempting to avoid being overlapped and perhaps being less aggressive. A novel finding was an effect of long-term prior experience: song lengths remained relatively short in alternating trials that followed two or more days after overlapping trials. Approach responses to the two treatments did not differ overall, but there was a parallel effect of prior experience: males tended to stay further from the speaker during alternating treatments if they had previously been overlapped by playback. Some females paired to the male subjects sang in response to playback and were also influenced by prior experience, singing more during alternating trials that had not been preceded by an overlapping trial. Male overlappers may signal dominance over a rival to other male or female receivers in a communication network, but it is currently unclear whether overlapping indicates motivation to escalate an aggressive interaction, or whether this singing strategy is related to male quality. Banded wrens are long-lived and maintain year-round territories, so modifying responses to rivals based on prior experience is likely to be important for success.
song overlap; interactive signals; communication networks; male quality; female song