Migratory New World Blackbirds Icterids Are More Neophobic than Closely Related Resident IcteridsReport as inadecuate

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Environments undergo short-term and long-term changes due to natural or human-induced events. Animals differ in their ability to cope with such changes which can be related to their ecology. Changes in the environment often elicit avoidance reactions neophobia which protect animals from dangerous situations but can also inhibit exploration and familiarization with novel situations and thus, learning about new resources. Studies investigating the relationship between a species’ ecology and its neophobia have so far been restricted to comparing only a few species and mainly in captivity. The current study investigated neophobia reactions to experimentally-induced changes in the natural environment of six closely-related blackbird species Icteridae, including two species represented by two distinct populations. For analyses, neophobic reactions difference in number of birds feeding and time spent feeding with and without novel objects were related to several measures of ecological plasticity and the migratory strategy resident or migratory of the population. Phylogenetic relationships were incorporated into the analysis. The degree of neophobia was related to migratory strategy with migrants expressing much higher neophobia fewer birds feeding and for a shorter time with objects present than residents. Furthermore, neophobia showed a relationship to diet breadth with fewer individuals of diet generalists than specialists returning when objects were present supporting the dangerous niche hypothesis. Residents may have evolved lower neophobia as costs of missing out on opportunities may be higher for residents than migrants as the former are restricted to a smaller area. Lower neophobia allows them approaching changes in the environment e.g. novel objects quickly, thereby securing access to resources. Additionally, residents have a greater familiarity with similar situations in the area than migrants and the latter may, therefore, initially stay behind resident species.

Author: Claudia Mettke-Hofmann , Hans Winkler, Paul B. Hamel, Russell Greenberg

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/


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