Research Press Release

Ecology: When the going gets tough, these birds stop fighting

Nature Communications

June 7, 2012

A certain species of bird originating in Taiwan are more cooperative in unfavourable environmental conditions, finds a study published in Nature Communications this week. This shows how ecological factors can affect cooperative and competitive behaviour, in this case, reducing social conflict among these birds.

Sheng-Feng Shen and colleagues monitored breeding groups of Taiwan yuhinas - species of bird that live in group nests shared with unrelated members - over several years, where female group members can at times aggressively compete for access to the nest during egg laying. Observations, combined with predictions from a game-theory model, suggest that the yuhinas became more cooperative during times of high rainfall - an unfavourable ecological condition for the birds. The findings suggest that applying the cooperative strategy results in more surviving offspring and success for the breeding group, despite the less than ideal environmental conditions.

DOI:10.1038/ncomms1894 | Original article

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