Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Like father, not like son: Brain and song structure in zebra finches are strongly influenced by the environment

Date:
October 2, 2013
Source:
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Summary:
A central topic in behavioral biology is the question, which aspects of a behavior are learned or expressed due to genetic predisposition. Today it is known that our personality and behavior are far less determined by the genetic background. Especially during development environmental factors can shape brain and behavior via so-called epigenetic effects. Thereby hormones play an important role. netic predisposition. However, it is relatively hard to discriminate the effects of the environment from that of the genes.

Zebra finch pair with adult son.
Credit: Stefan Leitner

A central topic in behavioral biology is the question, which aspects of a behavior are learned or expressed due to genetic predisposition. Today it is known that our personality and behavior are far less determined by the genetic background. Especially during development environmental factors can shape brain and behavior via so-called epigenetic effects. Thereby hormones play an important role. A shift in hormone concentrations in early life can have long lasting effects for an organism, whereas the same change in adults often may show only short-term changes. However, whether the influence of the environment has either strong or weak effects can largely depend on the individual genetic predisposition. However, it is relatively hard to discriminate the effects of the environment from that of the genes.

Related Articles


An attempt to tease apart these effects has been conducted by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in collaboration with an international team of scientists in zebra finch breeding pairs. Using partial cross-fostering the researchers exchanged half of the eggs within a nest making them to “cuckoo’s eggs”. Therefore half of the hatchlings were raised by their genetic parents, whereas the other half was raised by their foster parents. In addition they modified the availability of food by mixing the seeds with husks so that the parents had to spend more time searching for food. When the male offspring were adult at 100 days the researchers recorded their songs and analyzed the underlying neuroanatomy. This partial cross-fostering design enabled the researchers to tease apart the involvement of genotype, the rearing environment and nutritional effects to variation in song behavior and brain structure.

The results showed that heritability values were low for most song characteristics, except the number of song syllables and maximum frequency. On the other hand the common rearing environment including the song of the foster father mainly predicted the proportion of unique syllables in the songs of the sons, moreover this relationship was dependent on food availability. Even more striking results were found when the researchers investigated the brain anatomy. Heritability of brain variables was very low and strongly controlled by the environment. For example, an emergence of a clear relationship between brain mass and genotype is prevented by varying environmental quality.

This result was quite surprising as previous studies have found a high heritability of the song control system in the songbird brain, however these studies did not account for variation of the rearing environment. ”Being highly flexible in response to environmental conditions can maintain genetic variation and influences song learning and brain development” says Stefan Leitner, senior author of the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joseph L. Woodgate, Katherine L. Buchanan, Andrew T.D. Bennett, Clive K. Catchpole, Roswitha Brighton, Stefan Leitner. ENVIRONMENTAL AND GENETIC CONTROL OF BRAIN AND SONG STRUCTURE IN THE ZEBRA FINCH. Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/evo.12261

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Like father, not like son: Brain and song structure in zebra finches are strongly influenced by the environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131002092145.htm>.
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. (2013, October 2). Like father, not like son: Brain and song structure in zebra finches are strongly influenced by the environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131002092145.htm
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Like father, not like son: Brain and song structure in zebra finches are strongly influenced by the environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131002092145.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
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