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Baby birds can communicate even before they hatch, study says



It seems like one of those mysterious, inexplicable things animals do, but a pair of researchers from the University of Vigo in Spain has laid out a very specific pattern of behavior and found that it changes the direction of the bird's development.

The researchers studied 90 yellow-legged gull eggs, divided into "clutches," which is a term for all of the eggs in one nest. They separated some eggs in a clutch and played adult gull warning calls. As a result, the eggs started to move.

"Gull embryos alter their motility when exposed to alarm calls emitted by adults, an effect that causes the egg to vibrate," says the study, published in the journal Nature, Ecology and Evolution. each other with bleats, study finds ”
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Here's where it gets really interesting: When these eggs were reintroduced to the rest of their clutchmates, who were busy developing in relative silence, it appears that they somehow transmitted the information – namely, that some kind of danger was near – to those who did not hear the warning calls.

This transfer of knowledge was evident in the way the clutchmates developed. Clutches that did not have any members exposed to warning calls developed differently than entire clutches that had few members exposed to the calls.

 When a rescue group asked for help for caring for baby birds, thousands responded with hand-knitted nests

You may be wondering what good an unhatched bird's warning vibrations would be to its unhatched siblings, since they are all completely vulnerable and can not exactly protect themselves if the danger hit. Researchers found that these communications changed the way they developed and affected their behavior after they hatched.

Chicks from the exposed clutches "were quicker to crouch after listening to adult alarm calls compared to chicks from the control group, regardless of whether they were manipulated or not."

It makes sense that baby birds can hear and respond to danger while still developing in the egg, just like human

So, in other words, clutches that were aware of the danger developed to be more adequately prepared for it after birth. babies can sense and react to sounds while in utero. But the way it affects their development and behavior is a fascinating frontier. The researchers say the next step is to see whether different environmental stimuli encourage different changes in developing birds.


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