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Finch Warming Warnings

August 22, 2016

An Australian bird’s special call warns its unhatched chicks of a hot climate.

Transcript

mariette1HR Andy TD Bennett

Baby Zebra finches beg for food. (Andy TD Bennett)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Heated bird calls. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When it heats up in Australia, zebra finches sitting on nests start calling to their eggs.

(zebra finch hot egg call)

MYLENE MARIETTE (Deakin University):

They only produce that call when the temperature is above 26 degrees celsius.

HIRSHON:

To find out why, Deakin University behavioral ecologist Mylene Mariette played recordings of the calls to unhatched chicks. She and Katherine Buchanan report in Science magazine that baby birds who had heard the calls were were smaller than controls, but ended up producing more offspring themselves. Mariette says smaller chicks can dissipate heat better and slower growth reduces oxidative damage.

MARIETTE:

It looks like the parents have a way of telling their offspring that it’s going to be hot, and the offspring respond to this.

HIRSHON:

She says this could be a potential buffer against the negative effects of climate change. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

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