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Argentine ants harm nestlings of the blue tit

The consequences of ant invasions on ecosystems may only become apparent after long periods. In addition, predicting how sensitive native fauna will respond is only possible if the underlying proximate mechanisms of their impact are identified. The attraction of the native and invasive ant community to artificial bird nests was studied, together with reproduction of a wild native songbird over five consecutive breeding seasons in relation to the presence of an invasive ant species. Biometric, reproductive and individual blood parameters of great tits Parus major breeding in invaded as compared to uninvaded sites by Argentine ants Linepithema humile were analysed. Great tits bred preferably in uninvaded territories by the Argentine ant. Moreover, Argentine ants were more abundant at nests in invaded sites, than any native ant species were at uninvaded sites. Further, Argentine ants recruited at the artificial nests more intensively and responded to a larger variety of nest (intact eggs, cracked eggs, faeces, and cracked eggs plus faeces) contents than native species. Although breeding success and adult condition did not vary in relation to invasion status, offspring quality was negatively affected by the presence of Argentine ants. Nestlings reared in invaded sites were lighter, with lower wing/tarsus length ratio and had a reduced nutritional condition and altered oxidative stress balance as measured from several blood parameters. The interspersed distribution and small distance between invaded versus uninvaded territories suggest that ant presence affects nestling condition through direct interference at the nest. These results highlight the importance of evaluating the proximate effects like physiological parameters of the native fauna, when studying invasive ant-native bird interactions. informacion[at] Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions
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A negative association between melanin-based plumage color heterogeneity and intensity in birds

A negative association between melanin-based plumage color heterogeneity and intensity in birds

Even though plumage diversity is one of the most diverse phenotypic traits in nature, the reasons why some species exhibit more distinctive colors than others are poorly known. In the case of melanins, the most abundant pigments in birds, different chemical forms lead to different plumage colors and different amounts of those forms lead to different color intensities. However, the synthesis of some melanin forms is more physiologically limited than others. Here, authors hypothesize that an evolutionary solution to this scenario may consist in a negative association between melanin-based color heterogeneity and intensity. This prediction is confirmed after analyzing the diversity and expression level of melanin-based plumage colors in 96 species of birds breeding in the Iberian Peninsula. After controlling for phylogenetic effects, the intensity of the plumage colors of birds decreased with the number of different colors, suggesting that the physiological mechanism of melanin synthesis does not favor the production of both a heterogeneity of melanin forms and large amounts of these forms. These findings contribute to a better understanding of bird phenotypic diversity. informacion[at] Galván & Rodríguez-Martínez (2019) A negative association between melanin-based plumaje color heterogeneity and intensity in birds. Physiol Biochem Zool