Parental care and clutch sizes in North and South American birds.
The evolutionary causes of small clutch sizes in tropical and Southern Hemisphere regions are poorly understood. Alexander Skutch proposed 50 years ago that higher nest predation in the south constrains the rate at which parent birds can deliver food to young and thereby constrains clutch size by limiting the number of young that parents can feed. This hypothesis for explaining differences in clutch size and parental behaviors between latitudes has remained untested. Here, a detailed study of bird species in Arizona and Argentina shows that Skutch's hypothesis explains clutch size variation within North and South America. However, neither Skutch's hypothesis nor two major alternatives explain differences between latitudes. (+info)
Parental smoking and alcohol consumption and risk of neuroblastoma.
Previous studies and animal evidence have suggested a relationship between parental tobacco or alcohol use and the risk of some childhood cancers, including neuroblastoma. A case-control study was conducted to investigate the relationship between parental tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, and risk of neuroblastoma. Cases were children diagnosed with neuroblastoma over the period 1992-1994 at Children's Cancer Group and Pediatric Oncology Group institutions throughout the United States and Canada. One matched control was selected using random-digit dialing. Information on parental smoking and drinking history was obtained from 504 case and 504 control parents by telephone interview. Overall, there was no consistent pattern of association with parental smoking and alcohol consumption. For example, both maternal smoking and drinking during the period from 1 month before pregnancy through breastfeeding had adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of 1.1 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.8-1.4]. There was no association with paternal smoking (OR, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.8-1.6) or paternal drinking 1 month before conception (OR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.7-1.4). There was no consistent increase in risk by the amount of smoking or drinking during any time period relative to pregnancy. There was no suggestion of an increased risk when only one parent smoked. Smoking or drinking among both parents did not jointly increase the risk of neuroblastoma in their offspring. The child's age at diagnosis, stage, or MYCN oncogene amplification status did not materially alter the OR estimates. It is concluded that the results from this study do not indicate any evidence for a relationship between neuroblastoma and parental tobacco or alcohol use. (+info)
The morality of coercion.
The author congratulates Dr Brian Hurwitz, who recently reported the successful "intimidation" of an elderly competent widow into accepting badly needed therapy for a huge ulcerated carcinoma. He reports approvingly of the Israeli Patients' Rights Law, enacted in 1996, which demands detailed informed consent from competent patients before permitting treatment. But the law also provides an escape clause which permits coercing a competent patient into accepting life-saving therapy if an ethics committee feels that if treatment is imposed the patient will give his/her consent retroactively. He suggests this approach as an appropriate middle road between overbearing paternalism and untrammelled autonomy. (+info)
Parental care in the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita) in wild and captive groups.
Studies on cooperative care of offspring in callitrichid primates are biased in favor of observations in captivity. In the wild, however, individuals have to deal with environmental pressures, which may influence their social behavior. We compared the individual effort attributed to parental care offered by members of a wild group (couple, plus a subadult helper) and two captive groups (A: couple, plus an subadult helper, B: couple, plus four adult helpers) of the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset, Callithrix aurita, from weeks 1-12 after the infants' birth. The carrier (breeding male and female or helper) and the infant's feeding (food sharing and foraging for food) were recorded. Up to week four, while the wild breeding pair shared infant carrying at similar proportions, the male from captive group A carried 100% of the time. Adult helpers from group B were the main carriers. Carrying behavior extended up to week 12 only in the wild group. Food provisioning to the infant was observed earlier in the groups wild and A, but general proportion of feeding records was lower in the wild than in captivity. Energetic cost of travelling and searching for food may be associated with equal division of carrying behavior by the wild breeding pair. Higher proportions of carrying in the groups wild and B may have delayed the development of the infants' motor skills required in foraging. Our data agree with previous studies: the father's lower investment in carrying when adult helpers are present and lower contribution of subadult non-reproductive members. (+info)
Fecundity-survival trade-offs and parental risk-taking in birds.
Life history theory predicts that parents should value their own survival over that of their offspring in species with a higher probability of adult survival and fewer offspring. We report that Southern Hemisphere birds have higher adult survival and smaller clutch sizes than Northern Hemisphere birds. We subsequently manipulated predation risk to adults versus offspring in 10 species that were paired between North and South America on the basis of phylogeny and ecology. As predicted, southern parents responded more strongly to reduce mortality risk to themselves even at a cost to their offspring, whereas northern parents responded more strongly to reduce risk to their offspring even at greater risk to themselves. (+info)
Febrile seizures and parental anxiety: does information help?
AIM OF THE STUDY: To investigate the effect of febrile seizures on the behaviour and emotional situation of parents in order to improve our attitude towards these children and parents in future. METHODS: We analysed 135 questionnaires on parents' behaviour and emotional situation during and after a febrile seizure in their children. RESULTS: Febrile seizures were unknown to 44% of the parents. 121 parents (91%) reported severe anxiety on witnessing the first febrile seizure. In 69% the anxiety was so strong, that the parents believed their child would die. Severe anxiety was significantly associated with lack of knowledge about febrile seizures: 79% (no knowledge of febrile seizures) versus 59% (with knowledge). The level of anxiety appeared to be associated with low educational level, but not with ethnic background or income. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that knowledge of febrile seizures among concerned parents in our region remains insufficient. The results are ambiguous. On the one hand we found an association between severe anxiety and lack of knowledge on febrile seizures, suggesting that information prior to the first febrile seizure might reduce the anxiety level and thus lead to appropriate reactions in case of recurrence. On the other hand although parents knew about febrile seizures, they still had very high anxiety levels and would react inappropriately in case of recurrence. Therefore if information is provided to parents, it must be specific, especially about which measures are to be taken or avoided respectively. A prospective study to observe positive and negative effects of preventive information is needed. (+info)
Brighter yellow blue tits make better parents.
Whether or not bird ornaments are a signal for direct (e.g. good parents) or indirect (e.g. good genes) benefits to prospective partners in sexual selection is controversial. Carotene coloration in Parus species is directly related to the ingestion of caterpillars, so that a brightly carotene-coloured tit may be signalling its ability to find caterpillars, a main high-quality food source for good fledgling development, and hence its parental abilities. If carotene-based plumage coloration is related to the good-parent hypothesis, we predict that yellow plumage brightness of tit fathers should be positively correlated to their investment in offspring provisioning. Here, we use cross-fostering experiments in blue tits (Parus caeruleus) to show that chick development (as measured by tarsus length) is related to yellowness of the foster father, but not to that of the genetic parents. Using these data, we were able to measure, for the first time to our knowledge, the separate contribution of genetic and environmental factors (i.e. parental plumage coloration) to chick development, and hence parental investment. Our data, which relate carotenoid coloration to models of good parents, and data from other authors, which relate ultraviolet coloration to good-genes models, stress that different kinds of coloration within an individual may provide different units of information to prospective females. (+info)
The evolution of avian parental care.
A stage model traces key behavioural tactics and life-history traits that are involved in the transition from promiscuity with no parental care, the mating system that typifies reptiles, to that typical of most birds, social monogamy with biparental care. In stage I, females assumed increasing parental investment in precocial young, female choice of mates increased, female-biased mating dispersal evolved and population sex ratios became male biased. In stage II, consortships between mating partners allowed males to attract rare social mates, provided a mechanism for paternity assessment and increased female ability to assess mate quality. In stage III, relative female scarcity enabled females to demand parental investment contributions from males having some paternity certainty. This innovation was facilitated by the nature of avian parental care; i.e. most care-giving activities can be adopted in small units. Moreover, the initial cost of care giving to males was small compared with its benefit to females. Males, however, tended to decline to assume non-partitionable, risky, or relatively costly parental activities. In stage IV, altriciality coevolved with increasing biparental care, resulting in social monogamy. Approaches for testing behavioural hypotheses are suggested. (+info)