Thursday, April 11, 2013

Attractiveness of Mother Bird Equals Healthier Offspring

Mail Online posted an article on a study done by Palacky University in the Czech Republic.  The study was on the attractiveness of a mother bird affecting the health of her offspring.  The researchers took two mother birds of the same species, Parus major, with different patterning and switched their chicks. They compared the offspring's weights and immune strength and found a connection between the chick's weight and immune strength and the mother's coloration. The chick's weight was connected to the size of black stripe on the genetic mother's chest, while the immune strength was connected to how clean the white patch on both the genetic and foster mother's cheek.  Researchers also found that the male's chest stripe and cheek patch had no effect on the offspring's health.  The researchers believe that the males are responsible for the devlopment and continuation of these patterns in the females. Due to direct selection by males they are now able to tell visaully which females will produce the healtiest offspring.  I find the genetic connection between the pattern of the female and the health of the offspring really interesting.  It is a very helpful visual cue to let the males know which females are best to mate with, which is helping this species survive and they are going through a population explosion with more than two million mating pairs now.

[caption id="attachment_7728" align="alignnone" width="306" caption="Parus major with large black chest stripe"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7729" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Parus major with thin black chest stripe"][/caption]

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