Scientists have long worried whether animals can respond to the planet’s changing climate. Now, a new study reports that at least one species of songbird—and likely many more—already knows how to prep its chicks for a warming world. They do so by emitting special calls to the embryos inside their eggs, which can hear and learn external sounds.
The idea that the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) parents were “talking to their eggs” occurred to Mylene Mariette, a behavioral ecologist at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, Australia, while recording the birds’ sounds at an outdoor aviary. She noticed that sometimes when a parent was alone, it would make a rapid, high-pitched series of calls while sitting on the eggs.
She found that parents of both sexes uttered these calls only during the end of the incubation period and when the maximum daily temperature rose above 26°C (78.8°F). Mariette thinks the finches’ ability to prepare their offspring for their future environment makes sense because they live in arid habitats and they breed whenever conditions are good—irrespective of the season.
She adds that these finches show that some animals, at least, aren’t just sitting ducks when it comes to climate change—they may be much better able to adapt to a warming world than we thought.
Science mag, 18 Aug 2016
thanks to ddh