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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]ebd.csic.es: Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-020-02297-3


https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-020-02297-3
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Juvenile pheomelanin-based plumage colouration has evolved more frequently in carnivorous species

Juvenile pheomelanin-based plumage colouration has evolved more frequently in carnivorous species

Distinctive pheomelanin-based plumage colouration in juvenile birds has been proposed as a signal of immaturity to avoid aggression by older conspecifics, but recent findings suggest a detoxifying strategy. Pheomelanin synthesis implies the consumption of cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid that is necessary for the synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) but that may be toxic if in excess in the diet. As the nestling stage probably represents a low stress period with limited requirement for GSH protection, the synthesis of pheomelanin in developing birds may help maintain cysteine homeostasis, particularly in species with a high content of protein in the diet (i.e. carnivores). Here this hypothesis was confirmed showing that, among 53 species of Western Palearctic birds, juvenile pheomelanin based colouration has evolved more frequently in strictly carnivorous species than in species with other diets. Understanding  the  physiological  mechanisms  of  colour  production  helps  to  explain  the  evolution  of  plumage  diversity. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Rodriguez-Martinez et al (2019) Juvenile pheomelanin?based plumage colouration has evolved more frequently in carnivorous species. IBIS DOI 10.1111/ibi.12770