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.

Related Articles


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 October 30, 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 October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) Oatmeal is a fantastic way to start your day. Whichever way you prepare them, oats provide your body with many health benefits. In celebration of National Oatmeal Day, Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has a few recipe ideas, and tips on how to kickstart your day with this wholesome snack! Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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