Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brent geese show parents know best

Date:
November 16, 2010
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Research from a six year study on migrating geese has discovered an interesting outcome -- they return to the same spots they were taken to as youngsters. The study suggests young light-bellied Brent geese learn their migratory destinations from parents -- meaning their routes are learned through culture rather than inherited genetically. This raises some some interesting questions about why this species of goose demonstrates this behavior.

A light-bellied Brent goose guards its eggs.
Credit: Photo by Kendrew Colhoun

Research from a six year study on migrating geese has discovered an interesting outcome -- they return to the same spots they were taken to as youngsters.

The findings of the study, published online on November 17 in the journal Molecular Ecology, suggest young light-bellied Brent geese learn their migratory destinations from parents.

This means their routes are learned through culture rather than inherited genetically, raising some interesting questions about why this species of goose demonstrates this behaviour.

Xavier Harrison, from the Centre for Ecology & Conservation (Cornwall) at the University of Exeter, said: "If most offspring settle in the places they were shown in their first year of life, it means there can be a high risk of inbreeding between relatives, which isn't good for the reproductive future of that group. Because of this, it was quite unexpected to find such a high concentration of related birds.

"But there are potential advantages which could explain this pattern. These geese are social foragers, and returning to the same spots to forage with their siblings could allow them better access to food, as related birds may be less competitive over resources.

"Returning to the sites your parents raised you on also makes sense for your own reproductive success, because they have already been proven to be a good choice for producing offspring. It seems that in light-bellied Brent geese, parents know what's best."

Studying the location choices of migratory birds is very difficult due to the large distances they travel. To overcome this, the study saw collaboration between researchers at the University of Exeter, the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at the University of Sheffield, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

They were able to combine resources to use genotyping and a database of long term observational data to build up a picture of the locations individuals picked for migration routes.

It showed a recurring pattern -- young continuing to follow the routes they learned from their parents and stopping at the same places, or within a very close area in both Ireland and Iceland.

Stuart Bearhop, also from the Centre for Ecology & Conservation (Cornwall) at the University of Exeter, said: "Combining genetic data with observations of marked individuals in their natural habitat is a powerful approach, and has allowed us to gain a detailed understanding of the migratory decisions of young geese.

"The research shows a lot of family structure within light-bellied Brent geese, and suggests a pattern of site use most likely driven by cultural inheritance which is maintained over many years.

"What we're seeing is that groups of animals can be quite independent, and may not mix with others who settle at different locations. This shows how powerful cultural inheritance of migration can be in structuring reproductive isolation among groups, which in turn could have important implications for the development of genetic structure within animal populations."

Genotyping and DNA sex typing were performed at the Biomolecular Analysis Facility at Sheffield supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Xavier Harrison was supported by a NERC grant with a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust CASE partnership, and Richard Inger was supported by a NERC grant, both awarded to Dr Stuart Bearhop. Elements of this work have been funded by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Heritage Council. Work in Canada was undertaken via the support of Polar Continental Shelf.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Xavier A. Harrison, Tom Tregenza, Richard Inger, Kendrew Colhoun, Deborah A. Dawson, Gudmundur A. Gudmundsson, David J. Hodgson, Gavin J. Horsburgh, Graham Mcelwaine and Stuart Bearhop. Cultural inheritance drives site fidelity and migratory connectivity in a long-distance migrant. Molecular Ecology, 16 NOV 2010 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04852.x

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Brent geese show parents know best." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116203433.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2010, November 16). Brent geese show parents know best. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116203433.htm
University of Exeter. "Brent geese show parents know best." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101116203433.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) 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