Characterization of avipoxviruses from wild birds in Norway.
Avipoxviruses from different geographic regions of the world have been characterized to study their genetic and biological properties, but so far, no such work has been performed on Norwegian isolates. Lesions suggestive of avian pox, found on a Norwegian wild sparrow (Passer domesticus) and wood pigeon (Palumbus palumbus), were obtained in 1972 and 1996, respectively. Histologically, these lesions were demonstrated to be characteristic of poxvirus infections and the poxvirus was observed using an electron microscope. The resulting viruses were propagated in chicken embryo fibroblast cells. Restriction fragment length polymorphism of genomes from 2 Norwegian isolates and fowl pox vaccine strain, generated by BamHI, revealed a high degree of heterogeneity among the isolates. The profiles of avipoxviruses isolated from wild birds were clearly distinct from each other and also to the fowl poxvirus strain. Furthermore, chickens experimentally infected with pigeon poxvirus had higher antibody titers and extensive lesions compared to other isolates. This may suggest that pigeon poxvirus is more virulent than the other isolates. (+info)
Migratory sleeplessness in the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii).
Twice a year, normally diurnal songbirds engage in long-distance nocturnal migrations between their wintering and breeding grounds. If and how songbirds sleep during these periods of increased activity has remained a mystery. We used a combination of electrophysiological recording and neurobehavioral testing to characterize seasonal changes in sleep and cognition in captive white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) across nonmigratory and migratory seasons. Compared to sparrows in a nonmigratory state, migratory sparrows spent approximately two-thirds less time sleeping. Despite reducing sleep during migration, accuracy and responding on a repeated-acquisition task remained at a high level in sparrows in a migratory state. This resistance to sleep loss during the prolonged migratory season is in direct contrast to the decline in accuracy and responding observed following as little as one night of experimenter-induced sleep restriction in the same birds during the nonmigratory season. Our results suggest that despite being adversely affected by sleep loss during the nonmigratory season, songbirds exhibit an unprecedented capacity to reduce sleep during migration for long periods of time without associated deficits in cognitive function. Understanding the mechanisms that mediate migratory sleeplessness may provide insights into the etiology of changes in sleep and behavior in seasonal mood disorders, as well as into the functions of sleep itself. (+info)
Comparative analysis of the song of the Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis (Emberizidae) between Campinas and Botucatu, Sao Paulo State, Brazil.
The regional dialects or regiolects of the Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis were compared between Campinas (47 degrees 06'W-22 degrees 90'S) and Botucatu (48 degrees 44'W-22 degrees 88'S), Sao Paulo State, Southeastern Brazil. Songs of 88 individuals from thirteen localities were recorded. Sonograms showed that two areas presented more homogeneous songs, forming two regiolects. In 11 localities most individuals shared the same song type. At the other two localities, they sang up to 5 different song types. This occurs at the boundaries of the regiolects, and was also where individuals singing more than one song type were found. Similarities between song types were not related to geographic distance between the respective singers. A comparative analysis showed similarities in these regiolects with song of populations from Northeastern Brazil. (+info)
Plasticity of the avian song control system in response to localized environmental cues in an equatorial songbird.
A striking feature of the vertebrate brain is its plasticity. In high-latitude vertebrates, seasonal plasticity of the brain is driven by ubiquitous photoperiod cues and therefore is highly predictable and synchronous across extensive geographic ranges. A pronounced example of seasonal brain plasticity occurs in the nuclei that regulate song behavior in songbirds. These nuclei are larger in breeding than in nonbreeding birds. In the tropics, photoperiod varies little annually, and other environmental cues important for breeding can show considerable local geographic variability. We investigated whether localized patterns of seasonal breeding in tropical birds are associated with brain plasticity. We studied two populations of rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) that breed, only 25 km apart, on the equator but out of phase with each other. We measured gonadal activity and the size of song nuclei (high vocal center, robust nucleus of the arcopallium, and area X) during each population's breeding and nonbreeding periods. Breeding males had larger song nuclei and greater gonadal activity than did nonbreeding birds. This plasticity was associated with local environmental cues, such that the two populations exhibit asynchronous changes in brain structure. These results demonstrate the sensitivity of the brain and its ability to use a variety of environmental cues to coordinate seasonal plasticity and reproduction. (+info)
The effect of energy reserves on social foraging: hungry sparrows scrounge more.
Animals often use alternative strategies when they compete for resources, but it is unclear in most cases what factors determine the actual tactic followed by individuals. Although recent models suggest that the internal state of animals may be particularly important in tactic choice, the effects of state variables on the use of alternative behavioural forms have rarely been demonstrated. In this study, using experimental wind exposure to increase overnight energy expenditure, we show that flock-feeding house sparrows (Passer domesticus) with lowered energy reserves increase their use of scrounging (exploiting others' food findings) during their first feed of the day. This result is in accordance with the prediction of a state-dependent model of use of social foraging tactics. We also show that scrounging provides less variable feeding rates and patch finding times than the alternative tactic. These latter results support the theoretical assumption that scrounging is a risk-averse tactic, i.e. it reduces the risk of immediate starvation. As the level of energy reserves predicts the use of social foraging tactics, we propose that selection should favour individuals that monitor the internal state of flock mates and use this information to adjust their own tactic choice. (+info)
Balancing food and predator pressure induces chronic stress in songbirds.
The never-ending tension between finding food and avoiding predators may be the most universal natural stressor wild animals experience. The 'chronic stress' hypothesis predicts: (i) an animal's stress profile will be a simultaneous function of food and predator pressures given the aforesaid tension; and (ii) these inseparable effects on physiology will produce inseparable effects on demography because of the resulting adverse health effects. This hypothesis was originally proposed to explain synergistic (inseparable) food and predator effects on demography in snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). We conducted a 2 x 2, manipulative food addition plus natural predator reduction experiment on song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) that was, to our knowledge, the first to demonstrate comparable synergistic effects in a bird: added food and lower predator pressure in combination produced an increase in annual reproductive success almost double that expected from an additive model. Here we report the predicted simultaneous food and predator effects on measures of chronic stress in the context of the same experiment: birds at unfed, high predator pressure (HPP) sites had the highest stress levels; those at either unfed or HPP sites showed intermediate levels; and fed birds at low predator pressure sites had the lowest stress levels. (+info)
Species-typical songs in white-crowned sparrows tutored with only phrase pairs.
Modern theories of learned vocal behaviours, such as human speech and singing in songbirds, posit that acoustic communication signals are reproduced from memory, using auditory feedback. The nature of these memories, however, is unclear. Here we propose and test a model for how complex song structure can emerge from sparse sequence information acquired during tutoring. In this conceptual model, a population of combination-sensitive (phrase-pair) detectors is shaped by early exposure to song and serves as the minimal representation of the template necessary for generating complete song. As predicted by the model, birds that were tutored with only pairs of normally adjacent song phrases were able to assemble full songs in which phrases were placed in the correct order; birds that were tutored with reverse-ordered phrase pairs sang songs with reversed phrase order. Birds that were tutored with all song phrases, but presented singly, failed to produce normal, full songs. These findings provide the first evidence for a minimal requirement of sequence information in the acoustic model that can give rise to correct song structure. (+info)
Variation in virulence of West Nile virus strains for house sparrows (Passer domesticus).
The observation of avian mortality associated with West Nile virus (WNV) infection has become a hallmark epidemiologic feature in the recent emergence of this pathogen in Israel and North America. To determine if phenotypic differences exist among different WNV isolates, we exposed house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to low passage, lineage 1 WNV strains from North America (NY99), Kenya (KEN), and Australia (KUN; also known as Kunjin virus). House sparrows inoculated with the NY99 and KEN strains experienced similar mortality rates and viremia profiles. The KUN strain elicited significantly lower-titered viremia when compared with the other strains and induced no mortality. This study suggests that natural mortality in house sparrows due to Old World strains of WNV may be occurring where the KEN strain occurs. (+info)