Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Polluted Prey Causes Wild Birds To Change Their Tune

Date:
February 28, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Considerable attention has been paid to the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic environments, but rather less attention has been given to routes of contamination on land. A new study reveals that male birds foraging on invertebrates contaminated with environmental pollutants develop more complex songs, which are preferred by females, even though these males also show reduced immune function.

European starling feeding a fledgling. Researchers found that those birds exposed to environmentally-relevant levels of synthetic and natural estrogen mimics developed longer and more complex songs compared to males in a control group.
Credit: iStockphoto/Andrew Howe

Considerable attention has been paid to the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic environments, but rather less attention has been given to routes of contamination on land. A new study by researchers at Cardiff University, reveals that wild birds foraging on invertebrates contaminated with environmental pollutants, show marked changes in both brain and behaviour: male birds exposed to this pollution develop more complex songs, which are actually preferred by the females, even though these same males usually show reduced immune function compared to controls.

Katherine Buchanan and her colleagues studied male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) foraging at a sewage treatment works in the south-west UK and analysed the earthworms that constitute their prey. The researchers found that those birds exposed to environmentally-relevant levels of synthetic and natural estrogen mimics developed longer and more complex songs compared to males in a control group.

Specifically, birds dosed with the complete spectrum of endocrine disrupting chemicals found in the invertebrates spent longer singing, sang more often and produced more complex songs, a sexually selected trait important in attracting females for reproduction even though birds dosed at these ecologically relevant levels also showed reduced immune function.

The study also addresses the mechanism for this effect, as the researchers found that the high vocal centre (HVC), the area of the brain that controls male song complexity, is significantly enlarged in the contaminated birds. Estrogen causes masculinisation of the songbird brain and the HVC is enriched with estrogen receptors. Neural development is thus susceptible to exposure to chemicals which mimic estrogen, or to enhanced estrogen levels. The results also confirm the plasticity of the adult songbird brain.

Finally, the scientists found that female starlings prefer the song of males exposed to the mixture of endocrine disrupting chemicals, suggesting the potential for population level effects on reproductive success.

"This is the first evidence that environmental pollutants not only affect, but paradoxically enhance a signal of male quality such as song," said Katherine Buchanan, the corresponding author of the paper. "These results may have consequences of population dynamics of an already declining species."

Citation: Markman S, Leitner S, Catchpole C, Barnsley S, Mόller CT, et al (2008) Pollutants Increase Song Complexity and the Volume of the Brain Area HVC in a Songbird. PLoS One 3(2): e1674. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001674http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0001674


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Polluted Prey Causes Wild Birds To Change Their Tune." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226213436.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, February 28). Polluted Prey Causes Wild Birds To Change Their Tune. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226213436.htm
Public Library of Science. "Polluted Prey Causes Wild Birds To Change Their Tune." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226213436.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) — The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins