Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature

Date:
November 26, 2011
Source:
Wake Forest University
Summary:
For one species of seabird in the Galapagos, the child abuse "cycle of violence" found in humans plays out in the wild. The new study of Nazca boobies provides the first evidence from the animal world showing those who are abused when they are young often grow up to be abusers.

A Nazca booby adult begins an unwelcome visit with an unguarded nestling. Most such visits include aggressive bites by the adult to the nestling's head and neck.
Credit: Jacquelyn Grace

For one species of seabird in the Galápagos, the child abuse "cycle of violence" found in humans plays out in the wild.

The new study of Nazca boobies by Wake Forest University researchers provides the first evidence from the animal world showing those who are abused when they are young often grow up to be abusers. The study appears in the October issue of the ornithology journal, The Auk.

"We were surprised by the intense interest that many adults show in unrelated young, involving really rough treatment," said Wake Forest Professor of Biology Dave Anderson, who led the study with Wake Forest graduate student Martina Müller. "A bird's history as a target of abuse proved to be a strong predictor of its adult behavior."

In Nazca boobies, traumatic abuse of developing young significantly increases the chances those maltreated individuals will exhibit the same maltreatment later in life as adults, Müller said. She is now at the University of Groeningen in the Netherlands.

The ocean-going seabirds live in colonies in the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Among Nazca boobies, victimization by adults on other birds' chicks is widespread. They raise solitary nestlings on the ground and frequently leave their offspring unattended while foraging at sea. So, there is much opportunity for adult birds to bully and beat up neighbor nestlings.

The abusive adults patrol the breeding colony, searching for unguarded chicks. They frequently bite and peck the chicks, and even make sexual advances, sometimes leaving the chicks bleeding and stressed. Female adults show more aggressive behavior than males do, on average.

The young birds nest years later in the colony where they were born, making them ideal models for studying the effects of "chick" abuse on lifelong behavior.

The researchers collected data during three breeding seasons documenting which nestlings suffered abuse or neglect, then several years later evaluated their behavior as adults in the same colony. They tracked the birds and identified them using leg bands.

The findings shed important light on animal behavior. "This is not some contrived experimental situation with freaked out captive animals. This is an animal in a natural situation experiencing natural stressors when young. And, the outcome is their behavior later is influenced by the social stress they experienced," Anderson said. "As we determine how similar the physiology of this response is to the human situation, we may find opportunities for research on this stress response that are not possible to do with humans."

Co-authors on the study included Wake Forest graduate students Elaine T. Porter, Jacquelyn K. Grace, Jill A. Awkerman, and Mark A. Westbrock and technicians Kevin T. Birchler, Alex R. Gunderson, and Eric G. Schneider.

The Wake Forest team of researchers is already exploring physiological responses to abuse and have found a dramatic increase in corticosterone, the primary avian stress hormone, after a chick has experienced abuse. The surge in stress hormone may influence adult bird behavior. The study, led by doctoral student Jacquelyn Grace, was published recently in the journal, Hormones and Behavior.

"It's fascinating that what many would consider an extremely complex human phenomenon is also occurring -- perhaps through the same physiological mechanism -- in Nazca boobies, which are more closely related to crocodiles than mammals," Grace said. "Both studies suggest Nazca boobies might be a good model system to begin understanding the mechanisms underlying the cycle of violence in humans."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University. The original article was written by Cheryl Walker, Office of Communications and External Relations. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Martina S. Müller, Elaine T. Porter, Jacquelyn K. Grace, Jill A. Awkerman, Kevin T. Birchler, Alex R. Gunderson, Eric G. Schneider, Mark A. Westbrock, David J. Anderson. Maltreated nestlings exhibit correlated maltreatment as adults: Evidence of a “cycle of violence” in Nazca Boobies (Sula granti). The Auk, 2011; 128 (4): 615 DOI: 10.1525/auk.2011.11008

Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University. "Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132454.htm>.
Wake Forest University. (2011, November 26). Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132454.htm
Wake Forest University. "Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132454.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

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
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) 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