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author:("Valcu, miha")
1.  Biparental incubation patterns in a high-Arctic breeding shorebird: how do pairs divide their duties? 
Behavioral Ecology  2013;25(1):152-164.
Lay summary:
Parents may be in conflict over the care they provide to their offspring. To understand this conflict, an accurate description of who does what and when is necessary. We used an automated system to continuously monitor which parent incubated the eggs in an arctic breeding shorebird. Birds sat on the eggs around 11 h at a time, but females sat longer than males. In compensation, females were off-duty more when feeding was easier.
In biparental species, parents may be in conflict over how much they invest into their offspring. To understand this conflict, parental care needs to be accurately measured, something rarely done. Here, we quantitatively describe the outcome of parental conflict in terms of quality, amount, and timing of incubation throughout the 21-day incubation period in a population of semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) breeding under continuous daylight in the high Arctic. Incubation quality, measured by egg temperature and incubation constancy, showed no marked difference between the sexes. The amount of incubation, measured as length of incubation bouts, was on average 51min longer per bout for females (11.5h) than for males (10.7h), at first glance suggesting that females invested more than males. However, this difference may have been offset by sex differences in the timing of incubation; females were more often off nest during the warmer period of the day, when foraging conditions were presumably better. Overall, the daily timing of incubation shifted over the incubation period (e.g., for female incubation from evening–night to night–morning) and over the season, but varied considerably among pairs. At one extreme, pairs shared the amount of incubation equally, but one parent always incubated during the colder part of the day; at the other extreme, pairs shifted the start of incubation bouts between days so that each parent experienced similar conditions across the incubation period. Our results highlight how the simultaneous consideration of different aspects of care across time allows sex-specific investment to be more accurately quantified.
PMCID: PMC3860833  PMID: 24347997
Arctic; Calidris pusilla; continuous daylight; incubation pattern; incubation timing; negotiation; nest attendance; parental care division; semipalmated sandpiper; sexual conflict.
2.  When the sun never sets: diverse activity rhythms under continuous daylight in free-living arctic-breeding birds 
Circadian clocks are centrally involved in the regulation of daily behavioural and physiological processes. These clocks are synchronized to the 24 h day by external cues (Zeitgeber), the most important of which is the light–dark cycle. In polar environments, however, the strength of the Zeitgeber is greatly reduced around the summer and winter solstices (continuous daylight or continuous darkness). How animals time their behaviour under such conditions has rarely been studied in the wild. Using a radio-telemetry-based system, we investigated daily activity rhythms under continuous daylight in Barrow, Alaska, throughout the breeding season in four bird species that differ in mating system and parental behaviour. We found substantial diversity in daily activity rhythms depending on species, sex and breeding stage. Individuals exhibited either robust, entrained 24 h activity cycles, were continuously active (arrhythmic) or showed ‘free-running’ activity cycles. In semipalmated sandpipers, a shorebird with biparental incubation, we show that the free-running rhythm is synchronized between pair mates. The diversity of diel time-keeping under continuous daylight emphasizes the plasticity of the circadian system, and the importance of the social and life-history context. Our results support the idea that circadian behaviour can be adaptively modified to enable species-specific time-keeping under polar conditions.
PMCID: PMC3712422  PMID: 23782884
circadian clock; continuous daylight; mating system; arrhythmic activity; Arctic; Calidris
3.  Spatial autocorrelation: an overlooked concept in behavioral ecology 
Behavioral Ecology  2010;21(5):902-905.
PMCID: PMC2920294  PMID: 22476031
GIS; Moran's I; spatial analysis
4.  Is spatial autocorrelation an intrinsic property of territory size? 
Oecologia  2009;162(3):609-615.
In animals, competition for space and resources often results in territorial behaviour. The size of a territory is an important correlate of fitness and is primarily determined by the spatial distribution of resources and by interactions between competing individuals. Both of these determinants, alone or in interaction, could lead to spatial non-independence of territory size (i.e. spatial autocorrelation). We investigated the presence and magnitude of spatial autocorrelation (SAC) in territory size using Monte Carlo simulations of the most widely used territory measures. We found significant positive SAC in a wide array of competition-simulated conditions. A meta-analysis of territory size data showed that SAC is also a feature of territories mapped based on behavioural observations. Our results strongly suggest that SAC is an intrinsic trait of any territory measure. Hence, we recommend that appropriate statistical methods should be employed for the analysis of data sets where territory size is either a dependent or an explanatory variable.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1509-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2821514  PMID: 19924445
Home range; Thiessen polygons; Dirichlet tessellation; Monte Carlo simulation; Bivariate kernel
5.  Avian olfactory receptor gene repertoires: evidence for a well-developed sense of smell in birds? 
Among vertebrates, the sense of smell is mediated by olfactory receptors (ORs) expressed in sensory neurons within the olfactory epithelium. Comparative genomic studies suggest that the olfactory acuity of mammalian species correlates positively with both the total number and the proportion of functional OR genes encoded in their genomes. In contrast to mammals, avian olfaction is poorly understood, with birds widely regarded as relying primarily on visual and auditory inputs. Here, we show that in nine bird species from seven orders (blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus; black coucal, Centropus grillii; brown kiwi, Apteryx australis; canary, Serinus canaria; galah, Eolophus roseicapillus; red jungle fowl, Gallus gallus; kakapo, Strigops habroptilus; mallard, Anas platyrhynchos; snow petrel, Pagodroma nivea), the majority of amplified OR sequences are predicted to be from potentially functional genes. This finding is somewhat surprising as one previous report suggested that the majority of OR genes in an avian (red jungle fowl) genomic sequence are non-functional pseudogenes. We also show that it is not the estimated proportion of potentially functional OR genes, but rather the estimated total number of OR genes that correlates positively with relative olfactory bulb size, an anatomical correlate of olfactory capability. We further demonstrate that all the nine bird genomes examined encode OR genes belonging to a large gene clade, termed γ-c, the expansion of which appears to be a shared characteristic of class Aves. In summary, our findings suggest that olfaction in birds may be a more important sense than generally believed.
PMCID: PMC2495045  PMID: 18628122
olfaction; bird; olfactory bulb; pseudogene; nocturnality; ecological adaptation

Results 1-5 (5)