Matching Items (36)

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Cognition and personality in male veiled chameleons, Chamaeleo calyptratus

Description

Historically, the study of cognition has focused on species-specific learning, memory, problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, and emphasis was placed on the few high-performing individuals who successfully completed cognitive tasks. Studies

Historically, the study of cognition has focused on species-specific learning, memory, problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, and emphasis was placed on the few high-performing individuals who successfully completed cognitive tasks. Studies often deemed the success of a small fraction of individuals as suggestive of the cognitive capacity of the entire species. Recently though, interest in individual variation in cognitive ability within species has increased. This interest has emerged concomitantly with studies of variation in animal personalities (i.e. behavioral syndromes). Cognitive ability may be closely tied to personality because the mechanisms by which an individual perceives and uses environmental input (cognition) should influence how that individual consistently responds to various ecological demands (personality). However, empirical support for links between animal cognition and behavioral syndromes is currently lacking. I examined individual variation in cognition and personality in male veiled chameleons, Chamaeleo calyptratus. I considered three axes of personality (aggression, activity, and exploratory behavior) and cognition in a foraging context using visual cues − specifically, the ability to associate a color with a food reward. I found that aggression was positively correlated with the proportion of correct choices and number of consecutive correct choices. Also, one measure of exploration (the number of vines touched in a novel environment) was correlated negatively with the proportion of correct choices and positively with the number of consecutive incorrect decisions. My investigation suggests that more aggressive, less exploratory chameleons were more successful learners, and that there exists a shared pathway between these personality traits and cognitive ability.

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Date Created
  • 2013-05

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Effects of Urbanization and Sex on Color and Disease in the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Description

Historically, studies of condition-dependent signals in animals have been male-centric, but recent work suggests that female ornaments can also communicate individual quality (e.g., disease state, fecundity). There has been a

Historically, studies of condition-dependent signals in animals have been male-centric, but recent work suggests that female ornaments can also communicate individual quality (e.g., disease state, fecundity). There has been a surge of interest in how urbanization alters signaling traits, but we know little about if and how cities affect signal expression in female animals. We measured carotenoid-based plumage coloration and coccidian (Isospora spp) parasite burden in desert and city populations of house finches to examine urban impacts on male and female health and attractiveness. In earlier work, we showed that male house finches are less colorful and more parasitized in the city, and we again detected that pattern in this study for males. However, though city females are also less colorful than their rural counterparts, we found that rural females were more parasitized. Also, regardless of sex and unlike rural birds, more colorful birds in the city were more heavily infected with coccidia. These results show that urban environments can disrupt signal honesty in female animals and highlight the need for more studies on how cities affect disease and condition-dependent traits in both male and female animals.

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  • 2016-05

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A comparative test of the links between sleep state, brain size, and incubation investment in birds

Description

There are two electrophysiological states of sleep in birds (rapid-eye-movement sleep [REM] and slow-wave sleep [SWS]), which have different functions and costs. REM improves memory consolidation, while SWS is neuro-restorative but

There are two electrophysiological states of sleep in birds (rapid-eye-movement sleep [REM] and slow-wave sleep [SWS]), which have different functions and costs. REM improves memory consolidation, while SWS is neuro-restorative but also exposes the animal to more risk during this deep-sleep phase. Birds who sleep in more exposed microsites are known to invest proportionally less in SWS (presumably to ensure proper vigilance), but otherwise little else is known about the ecological or behavioral predictors of how much time birds devote to REM v. SWS sleep. In this comparative analysis, we examine how proportional time spent in SWS v. REM is related to brain mass and duration of the incubation period in adults. Brain mass and incubation period were chosen as predictors of sleep state investment because brain mass is positively correlated with body size (and may show a relationship between physical development and sleep) and incubation period can be a link used to show similarities and differences between birds and mammals (using mammalian gestation period). We hypothesized that (1) species with larger brains (relative to body size and also while controlling for phylogeny) would have higher demands for information processing, and possibly proportionally outweigh neuro-repair, and thus devote more time to REM and that (2) species with longer incubation periods would have proportionally more REM due to the extended time required for overnight predator vigilance (and not falling into deep sleep) while on the nest. We found, using neurophysiological data from literature on 27 bird species, that adults from species with longer incubation periods spent proportionally more time in REM sleep, but that relative brain size was not significantly associated with relative time spent in REM or SWS. We therefore provide evidence that mammalian and avian REM in response to incubation/gestation period have convergently evolved. Our results suggest that overnight environmental conditions (e.g. sleep site exposure) might have a greater effect on sleep parameters than gross morphological attributes.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05

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The effects of urbanization and human disturbance on problem solving in juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Description

Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby

Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby animals come to solve novel problems while navigating, foraging, etc. The increased presence of humans in urban areas is an additional environmental challenge that may potentially impact cognitive performance in wildlife. To date, there has been little experimental investigation into how human disturbance affects problem solving in animals from urban and rural areas. Urban animals may show superior cognitive performance in the face of human disturbance, due to familiarity with benign human presence, or rural animals may show greater cognitive performance in response to the heightened stress of unfamiliar human presence. Here, I studied the relationship between human disturbance, urbanization, and the ability to solve a novel foraging problem in wild-caught juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). This songbird is a successful urban dweller and native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. In captivity, finches captured from both urban and rural populations were presented with a novel foraging task (sliding a lid covering their typical food dish) and then exposed to regular periods of high or low human disturbance over several weeks before they were again presented with the task. I found that rural birds exposed to frequent human disturbance showed reduced task performance compared to human-disturbed urban finches. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that acclimation to human presence protects urban birds from reduced cognition, unlike rural birds. Some behaviors related to solving the problem (e.g. pecking at and eying the dish) also differed between urban and rural finches, possibly indicating that urban birds were less neophobic and more exploratory than rural ones. However, these results were unclear. Overall, these findings suggest that urbanization and acclimation to human presence can strongly predict avian response to novelty and cognitive challenges.

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Date Created
  • 2015-05

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Examining sex and urban-rural differences in preen oil composition in the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Description

Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is

Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is spread through their feathers during grooming and influences feather integrity, waterproofing, and coloration. As urban areas grow and present conditions that may demand increased feather self-maintenance (e.g. due to soiling, pollution, elevated UV exposure due to natural habitat alterations), it is important to examine how preening and preen oil may be affected by this process. I assessed variation in preen oil composition in house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) as a function of sex, urbanization, and plumage hue, a sexually selected indicator of male quality. Preen oil samples from birds captured at urban and rural sites were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We detected 18 major peaks, which we tentatively identified as esters, and found that, although there were no sex or urban-rural differences in preen oil constituents, there was a significant interactive effect of sex and urbanization, with rural females and urban males having higher amounts of some components. This suggests that factors that vary with sex or urbanization, such as the timing of seasonal cycles, are affecting preen oil composition. There were no significant relationships between coloration and preen oil composition, suggesting that preen oil composition does not vary with male quality.

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Date Created
  • 2015-05

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Pigeon Iridescence: Physical and Functional Properties

Description

Rock Doves (Columba livia), also known as pigeons, are a common sight to city dwellers around the world. Often overlooked as urban pests, these birds have intriguing iridescent coloration on

Rock Doves (Columba livia), also known as pigeons, are a common sight to city dwellers around the world. Often overlooked as urban pests, these birds have intriguing iridescent coloration on their necks that has been the subject of few studies. Previous studies have documented the multimodal reflectance spectra of the iridescence and the keratin cortex microstructures responsible for those properties, but do not address questions about the biological context of this coloration. In this study, I explore the factors that affect how this directional signal might appear to intended receivers (assumed to be females). Pigeon neck feathers were obtained from captive-raised birds and measured for reflectance values at numerous angles in the hemisphere above the feather to obtain a directional reflectance distribution. Each feather was mounted individually, and measurements were taken at a consistent location on the feather using a spectrophotometer; the collector was positioned directly above the feather, while we moved the light source in both azimuth and elevation on a Carden arm to simulate changes in pigeon movements during courtship. Depending on the elevation and azimuth of the light source, pigeon neck feathers shift in appearance from green to purple, with an accompanying shift in the location and intensity of reflectance peaks. Additionally, this unique coloration is due to multiple reflectance peaks in the avian vision field between 300 and 700nm. These data coupled with qualitative behavioral observations of Rock Dove courtship inform our understanding of how the color signal is displayed and how it appears to a potential mate; as a female observes the movements in a male courtship display, properties of the iridescence utilize multiple viewing angles to create a dynamic color array.

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Date Created
  • 2015-05

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Complementary Shifts in Photoreceptor Spectral Tuning Unlock the Full Adaptive Potential of Ultraviolet Vision in Birds

Description

Color vision in birds is mediated by four types of cone photoreceptors whose maximal sensitivities (λmax) are evenly spaced across the light spectrum. In the course of avian evolution, the

Color vision in birds is mediated by four types of cone photoreceptors whose maximal sensitivities (λmax) are evenly spaced across the light spectrum. In the course of avian evolution, the λmax of the most shortwave-sensitive cone, SWS1, has switched between violet (λmax > 400 nm) and ultraviolet (λmax < 380 nm) multiple times. This shift of the SWS1 opsin is accompanied by a corresponding short-wavelength shift in the spectrally adjacent SWS2 cone. Here, we show that SWS2 cone spectral tuning is mediated by modulating the ratio of two apocarotenoids, galloxanthin and 11’,12’-dihydrogalloxanthin, which act as intracellular spectral filters in this cell type. We propose an enzymatic pathway that mediates the differential production of these apocarotenoids in the avian retina, and we use color vision modeling to demonstrate how correlated evolution of spectral tuning is necessary to achieve even sampling of the light spectrum and thereby maintain near-optimal color discrimination.

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Date Created
  • 2016-07-12

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Urban Impacts on Oxidative Balance and Animal Signals

Description

Though many animal ornaments and signals are sensitive to and encode information about the oxidative balance (OB) of individuals (e.g., antioxidant supplies/activity, reactive oxygen species, cellular oxidative damage/repair), often the

Though many animal ornaments and signals are sensitive to and encode information about the oxidative balance (OB) of individuals (e.g., antioxidant supplies/activity, reactive oxygen species, cellular oxidative damage/repair), often the environmental and/or physiological sources of such OB are unknown. Urban development is among the most recent, pervasive, and persistent human stressors on the planet and impacts many environmental and physiological parameters of animals. Here we review the mechanistic underpinnings and functional consequences of how human urbanization drives antioxidant/oxidative status in animals and how this affects signal expression and use. Although we find that urbanization has strong negative effects on signal quality (e.g., visual, auditory, chemical) and OB across a range of taxa, few urban ecophysiological studies address signals and oxidative stress in unison, and even fewer in a fitness context. We also highlight particular signal types, taxa, life-histories, and anthropogenic environmental modifications on which future work integrating OB, signals, and urbanization could be centered. Last, we examine the conceptual and empirical framework behind the idea that urban conditions may disentangle signal expression from honesty and affect plasticity and adaptedness of sexually selected traits and preferences in the city.

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  • 2016-05-19

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Frequent Misdirected Courtship in a Natural Community of Colorful Habronattus Jumping Spiders

Description

Male courtship display is common in many animals; in some cases, males engage in courtship indiscriminately, spending significant time and energy courting heterospecifics with whom they have no chance of

Male courtship display is common in many animals; in some cases, males engage in courtship indiscriminately, spending significant time and energy courting heterospecifics with whom they have no chance of mating or producing viable offspring. Due to high costs and few if any benefits, we might expect mechanisms to evolve to reduce such misdirected courtship (or ‘reproductive interference’). In Habronattus jumping spiders, males frequently court heterospecifics with whom they do not mate or hybridize; females are larger and are voracious predators, posing a severe risk to males who court indiscriminately. In this study, we examined patterns of misdirected courtship in a natural community of four sympatric Habronattus species (H. clypeatus, H. hallani, H. hirsutus, and H. pyrrithrix).

We used direct field observations to weigh support for two hypotheses (differential microhabitat use and species recognition signaling) to explain how these species reduce the costs associated with misdirected courtship. We show that, while the four species of Habronattus do show some differences in microhabitat use, all four species still overlap substantially, and in three of the four species individuals equally encountered heterospecifics and conspecifics. Males courted females at every opportunity, regardless of species, and in some cases, this led to aggression and predation by the female. These results suggest that, while differences in microhabitat use might reduce misdirected courtship to some extent, co-existence of these four species may be possible due to complex communication (i.e. species-specific elements of a male’s courtship display). This study is the first to examine misdirected courtship in jumping spiders. Studies of misdirected courtship and its consequences in the field are limited and may broaden our understanding of how biodiversity is maintained within a community.

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  • 2017-04-05

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High Concentrations of Ketocarotenoids in Hepatic Mitochondria of Haemorhous Mexicanus

Description

Vertebrates cannot synthesize carotenoid pigments de novo, so to produce carotenoid-based coloration they must ingest carotenoids. Most songbirds that deposit red carotenoids in feathers, bills, eyes, or skin ingest only

Vertebrates cannot synthesize carotenoid pigments de novo, so to produce carotenoid-based coloration they must ingest carotenoids. Most songbirds that deposit red carotenoids in feathers, bills, eyes, or skin ingest only yellow or orange dietary pigments, which they oxidize to red pigments via a ketolation reaction. It has been hypothesized that carotenoid ketolation occurs in the liver of vertebrates, but this hypothesis remains to be confirmed. To better understand the role of hepatocytes in the production of ketolated carotenoids in songbirds, we measured the carotenoid content of subcellular components of hepatocytes from wild male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) that were molting red, ketocarotenoid-containing feathers (e.g., 3-hydroxy-echinenone). We homogenized freshly collected livers of house finches and isolated subcellular fractions, including mitochondria. We found the highest concentration of ketocarotenoids in the mitochondrial fraction. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that carotenoid pigments are oxidized on or within hepatic mitochondria, esterified, and then transported to the Golgi apparatus for secretory processing.

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Date Created
  • 2015-07-01