Navigation Links
Fairy wrens: Accountants of the animal kingdom

A puzzling example of altruism in nature has been debunked with researchers showing that purple-crowned fairy wrens are in reality cunningly planning for their own future when they assist in raising other birds' young by balancing the amount of assistance they give with the benefits they expect to receive in the future.

Dr Anne Peters, of the Monash University School of Biological Sciences, together with co-authors Sjouke Kingma from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Michelle L. Hall of the Australian National University, have conducted a long term study of the cooperative breeding behaviour of fairy-wrens in tropical Australia.

The results, published in the prestigious journal The American Naturalist, show that helpers are not motivated by kindness.

"The study showed that the seemingly selfless little helpers are in fact carefully calculating accountants" said Dr Peters, senior author of the study.

Cooperative breeding, where birds apparently selflessly raise others' offspring, has long perplexed biologists as this behaviour runs counter to Darwin's theory of natural selection, which predicts that individuals invest only in their own reproduction.

Fairy-wrens are habitual cooperative breeders. The helpers are generally older silblings or half-siblings of the current nestlings, and their behaviour is likely explained by an instinctive desire to see more of their shared genes entering the gene pool.

Purple-crowned fairy-wrens extend this assistance to unrelated nestlings.

Dr Peters' study shows that these apparently altruistic helpers are actually playing a selfish game: they help when their chances of inheriting the current breeding territory are greater, and they are thus helping to raise their own future assistants.

"Ours is the first study to show that helpers at the nest adjust their behaviour precisely according to multiple potential rewards: they provide food to kin, and to unrelated nestlings to produce future helpers of their own," Dr Peters said.

"However, we suspect once more researchers look at their study species in this dual light, more cases will be found of helpers that can do their sums so precisely."


Contact: Emily Walker
Monash University

Related biology news :

1. Long-term study shows effect of climate change on animal diversity
2. Researchers find animal with ability to survive climate change
3. Researchers note differences between people and animals on calorie restriction
4. Earliest animal footprints ever found -- discovered in Nevada
5. Details of evolutionary transition from fish to land animals revealed
6. Drug-embedded microparticles bolster heart function in animal studies
7. Swamping bad cells with good in ALS animal models helps sustain breathing
8. Moderate use averts failure of type 2 diabetes drugs in animal model
9. Grapes may aid a bunch of heart risk factors, animal study finds
10. Animal and biological science highlights: San Antonio Fluid Dynamics Conference, Nov. 23-25
11. Discovery of giant roaming deep sea protist provides new perspective on animal evolution
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/20/2016)... June 20, 2016 Securus Technologies, a ... solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections and monitoring ... involved, it has secured the final acceptance by ... for Managed Access Systems (MAS) installed. Furthermore, Securus ... to be installed by October, 2016. MAS distinguishes ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... , June 9, 2016 ... deploy Teleste,s video security solution to ensure the safety of ... during the major tournament Teleste, an ... systems and services, announced today that its video security solution ... to back up public safety across the country. The ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample ... the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. ... said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016  Blueprint ... new biological discoveries to the medical community, has closed ... co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We have ... us with the capital we need to meet our ... will essentially provide us the runway to complete validation ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... is exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and will showcase its product’s latest ... ClinCapture will also be presenting a scientific poster on Disrupting Clinical Trials in ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 22, 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: ... sponsorship of the QB3@953 life sciences incubator ... human health. The shared laboratory space at QB3@953 was ... overcome a key obstacle for many early stage organizations ... part of the sponsorship, Amgen launched two "Amgen Golden ...
Breaking Biology Technology: