Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars

Date:
January 27, 2012
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Location matters for birds on the hunt for caterpillars, according to researchers. Findings suggest that chickadees and others zero in on the type of tree as much as the characteristics of their wriggly prey.

A black-capped chickadee prepares to dine on a caterpillar.
Credit: Christian Skorik / Wesleyan University

Location matters for birds on the hunt for caterpillars, according to researchers at UC Irvine and Wesleyan University. Findings suggest that chickadees and others zero in on the type of tree as much as the characteristics of their wriggly prey.

Unfortunately for caterpillars, munching on tree leaves that are healthy and tasty can dramatically boost their own risk of becoming food. Study results, published online this week in The American Naturalist, show that dining on the trees that are most nutritious for caterpillars -- such as the black cherry -- can increase by 90 percent their chances of being devoured by a discerning bird.

"The jump in risk is surprising," said co-author Kailen Mooney, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UCI. "It shows that for caterpillars, moving from one tree to the next can mean the difference between getting eaten and surviving."

The findings indicate a "neat potential pest control system," because the healthiest tree species harbor the greatest number of caterpillars, thereby offering the easiest pickings for winged predators, said lead author Michael Singer of Wesleyan. "Our study addresses basic theoretical questions in ecology, but we also want forest managers and conservation biologists to take away practical knowledge."

Mooney, who specializes in the ecology of predatory birds, said tree identification is probably learned by birds, not genetic. He added that Southern California bird species probably do the same with coastal sage scrub, determining which types of bushes afford a better chance of tasty insect treats.

With help from a small army of students, the scientists conducted a two-year experiment in Connecticut forests involving hundreds of tree branches either covered with bird-proof netting or left bare.

Mooney noted that the results illustrate a stark choice between gaining strength through a good diet but being more vulnerable to predators and remaining weaker and hungrier but more safe.

"If a caterpillar could feed on nutritious, high-quality tree species and be left alone, this would be the best of all worlds," he said. "Instead, it's faced with a trade-off. Overall, it appears that it's better to feed on poor-quality tree species and have fewer caterpillars around you than to be on a nutritious plant with many others."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael S. Singer, Timothy E. Farkas, Christian M. Skorik, Kailen A. Mooney. Tritrophic Interactions at a Community Level: Effects of Host Plant Species Quality on Bird Predation of Caterpillars. The American Naturalist, 2012; [link]

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2012, January 27). For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm
University of California - Irvine. "For the birds: Winged predators seek certain trees when foraging for caterpillars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126143653.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) 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