Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster
Davis Motor Sales banner ad

For The Birds: Sparrow Research May Help Understand Human Parenting

for birds 300LEXINGTON, Ky. (11/28/13) – From humans to sparrows, individuals within a species display distinct "personalities" when it comes to behaviors. Taking an innovative approach to understanding how various factors impact behavioral patterns, David Westneat is working with a local population of house sparrows to understand how variables including local ecology, stress and hormones come together to affect the parenting behaviors of birds and other creatures.
 
Westneat, professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, has been awarded a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation for $670,000. As a behavioral ecologist with expertise on reproductive and social behavior, Westneat will use the grant to study variation in parenting patterns.
 
The current project "Parental care and the integration of personality and plasticity at multiple levels of phenotypic variance," focuses on variation in the way individual sparrows feed their nestlings and how they respond to changing factors such as the demand of the nestlings, changing seasons, the behavior of their partner, and the level of competition with other sparrows nearby.
 
"We have some birds with very parental personalities, who feed nestlings often, and some who are not so parental," said Westneat.
 
"The grant is partially to understand the linkage between the different mean levels of care and how flexible they are in response to changing conditions."
 
Working with co-investigators Rebecca Fox of Transylvania University and Matthew Schofield in the UK Department of Statistics, Westneat is studying the "gamble" that parent sparrows take each time they go out to forage for food for their nestlings. Because finding food is influenced by local ecology and food is often unpredictable, Westneat is interested in discovering if birds know enough about the nature of insect prey either to preferentially visit a place with low but more reliable food supplies as opposed to places where food is less reliably found, but the payoff is often greater in terms of the quality of the items there. This “gambling” could depend on how well their offspring are growing.
 
Westneat came to UK in 1990. In 1992, he began working with house sparrows on UK’s Maine Chance Farm. To date, he has tracked more than 12,000 individual birds studying behaviors. Today, his research is based at the UK Ecological Research Facility, a roughly 55-acre tract of old farmland on the north side of Lexington.
 
According to Westneat, the ultimate research goal is to have "a better understanding of how ecology affects the patterns of variation both within and among individuals, the consequences of this variation on reproductive output, and, if parents adjust their behavior, whether that is mediated by circulating levels of hormones."
 
"So we’re interested in corticosterone, which is a hormone that often responds to stress," Westneat said. "As every parent knows, kids make you stressed, and it’s no different in birds, but we don’t know exactly what that stress does to their behavior. So we’re interested in just what role that hormone plays in influencing patterns of behavior. We also suspect there is interplay between corticosterone and another hormone, prolactin, which in birds is involved with influencing their affiliation or their drive to come back to the nest, and attend to the 'kids'. These two hormones may work together to regulate how hard parents work to find food and how quickly they bring it to the nestlings. It could be they also influence when parents gamble in their decisions of where to forage.”
 
Ultimately, Westneat hopes to develop a broader understanding of the mechanisms by which phenotypes are controlled in animals, and the linkage between ecology, those mechanisms, and the expression of interesting behavior like parental care. Parental care is a particularly interesting behavior because obviously it’s how animals with dependent offspring are successful in reproducing. Yet, parents often have to decide between the current offspring and surviving themselves to produce additional offspring.
 
"There are some really interesting ideas about the evolution of just enough parental care, and so all these findings about the unpredictability of food, parental flexibility, and the underlying hormonal mechanisms adds to our understanding of those bigger decisions," Westneat said. "We thus expect parents to provide only so much care, but we don’t really know how local ecology, especially unpredictable aspects like where food is, might affect this bigger decision. Our studies of sparrows thus may contribute to understanding why variation in parenting behavior exists across all sorts of organisms, including humans."

SurfKY News
Article provided by Allison Elliott-Shannon

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

Posted on 2/2/14
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
2/6/2014 - posted

Stock Report

1 DOW 17,042.90
-28.32 (-0.17%)    
2 S&P 1,972.29
-5.51 (-0.28%)    
3 NASDAQ 4,493.39
-12.46 (-0.28%)    
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
2/6/2014 - posted
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
2/6/2014 - posted

In Other News...

Search Warrant Results in Arrests

OWENSBORO, Ky. (9/29/14) — Daviess County Deputies along with Kentucky State Police executed a search warrant at the… Read More

Man Charged with PI, Drugs, After Allegedly Passing Out in Store Parking Lot

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (9/29/14) ―Madisonville Police responded to a complaint of a man passed out in the driver seat of a… Read More
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
Genovese - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=35646&sub= Lewis - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=bracken_lewis Holt - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=drholt Napier - http://www.mchky.org/getpage.php?name=dr.napier_page Newman - http://www.mchky.org/staff/bio.php?doc_id=50353
2/6/2014 - posted

Most Read This Week (Site-Wide)

September 26, 2014 5789

Super Walmart Headed to Hanson, Fate of…

in Top Stories by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
September 27, 2014 3667

Hopkins County Grand Jury Misdemeanor Indictments

in News by Karen McKnight
September 29, 2014 3274

Endless Road Strings Bring Orchestra Mix to…

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
September 26, 2014 3266

Drug Sting Results in Meth Trafficking Charge

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
September 27, 2014 2582

Sinister on Center Takes Haunted Manor to Whole…

in Top Stories by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
September 26, 2014 2519

Muhlenberg Job Corps Recognizes Employee of the…

in Top Stories by Karen Robinson
September 26, 2014 2517

UPDATE: Semi Trucks Crash, Block Northbound Lane…

in Top Stories by Keith Todd
September 26, 2014 2392

Muhlenberg 911 Service Recipient of $32,500 Grant

in Top Stories by Rebecca Hanchett
September 26, 2014 2387

Madisonville Police Department Arrest Reports -…

in News by Madisonville Police Department
September 29, 2014 2320

One Injured in Single-Vehicle Collision on…

in Top Stories by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
September 29, 2014 2254

Man, Woman Charged with Violating EPO Against…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department

Most Read Stories from Hopkins County

September 26, 2014 3266

Drug Sting Results in Meth Trafficking…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
September 29, 2014 2320

One Injured in Single-Vehicle Collision…

in Top Stories by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
September 29, 2014 2254

Man, Woman Charged with Violating EPO…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
September 25, 2014 2228

Shoplifting Complaint Leads to Resisting…

in Top Stories by Information provided by MPD
September 29, 2014 2001

Man Charged with PI, Drugs, After…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department

Most Read Stories from Muhlenberg County

September 29, 2014 3274

Endless Road Strings Bring Orchestra Mix…

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
September 26, 2014 2519

Muhlenberg Job Corps Recognizes Employee…

in Top Stories by Karen Robinson
September 26, 2014 2392

Muhlenberg 911 Service Recipient of…

in Top Stories by Rebecca Hanchett
September 28, 2014 1952

Community Shows Support to Muhlenberg…

in Top Stories by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
September 28, 2014 1728

Marching Mustangs Take Third in Ohio…

in Top Stories by Information provided by Shawna Hendrix

SurfKY News Group, Inc. Central Office & Printing Division
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431  •  270.452.2249 (fax)
Main Number: 270.452.2727 (phone)  •  Printing Division Direct Line: 270.821.8600 (phone)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social 03social 04social 22social 21social 06