Menu

Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Raising young in nuclear family groups – evolutionary bliss for some birds

Bird social groups are more complex than previously thought. Now, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have established that bird species which raise their young in nuclear family groups develop greater social complexity compared with species that raise their young in groups without family ties.
Four birds on a branch. Photo.
Grey-crowned babblers raise their chicks in family groups. Photo: Graham Lee.

In a new study, researchers at Lund University and Oxford University examined how the world’s different bird species raise their offspring. The study focused on some 200 species that raise their offspring in collective groups comprising three or more individuals. Of these, around 150 species raise their young in family groups in which one or more older siblings have stayed with the flock, whereas some 50 species form groups of unrelated individuals that aggregate during the breeding season. The results, now presented in the research journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, are striking.

“The species that raise their young in family groups have developed larger, more complex groups with specialized division of labour, like that of bees and ants. This is completely lacking in species where individuals without family ties form groups”, says Philip Downing, biology researcher at Lund University.

The species that raise young collectively in family groups evolved a greater ability to carry out different tasks – some individuals focus on reproduction, while others care for the young. This division of labour has not evolved in groups that lack family ties, instead all the individuals focus on reproduction.  

“Our results help us to understand why the social groups of species remain relatively simple whereas others have taken the path to greater group complexity”, says Philip Downing.

Publication: "Group formation and the evolutionary pathway to complex sociality in birds" - nature.com

 

Latest news

7 July 2020

Bird feeding helps females more than males

Bird feeding helps females more than males
19 May 2020

Rising temperatures affect wetlands and disrupt the water balance

Rising temperatures affect wetlands and disrupt the water balance
19 May 2020

New study on the brain’s water channels offers hope to those with brain and spinal cord damage

New study on the brain’s water channels offers hope to those with brain and spinal cord damage
7 May 2020

New discovery facilitates the hunt for methods to limit Alzheimer’s disease

New discovery facilitates the hunt for methods to limit Alzheimer’s disease
4 May 2020

Arctic wildlife uses extreme method to save energy

Arctic wildlife uses extreme method to save energy

Faculty of Science, Lund University
Box 118, 221 00 Lund, Sweden
Phone: + 46 (0)46 222 00 00 (operator)
kansli [at] science [dot] lu [dot] se

About this site

Accessibility statement