Navigation Links
Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature

For one species of seabird in the Galpagos, the child abuse "cycle of violence" found in humans plays out in the wild.

The new study of Nazca boobies by Wake Forest University researchers provides the first evidence from the animal world showing those who are abused when they are young often grow up to be abusers. The study appears in the October issue of the ornithology journal, The Auk.

"We were surprised by the intense interest that many adults show in unrelated young, involving really rough treatment," said Wake Forest Professor of Biology Dave Anderson, who led the study with Wake Forest graduate student Martina Mller. "A bird's history as a target of abuse proved to be a strong predictor of its adult behavior."

In Nazca boobies, traumatic abuse of developing young significantly increases the chances those maltreated individuals will exhibit the same maltreatment later in life as adults, Mller said. She is now at the University of Groeningen in the Netherlands.

The ocean-going seabirds live in colonies in the Galpagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Among Nazca boobies, victimization by adults on other birds' chicks is widespread. They raise solitary nestlings on the ground and frequently leave their offspring unattended while foraging at sea. So, there is much opportunity for adult birds to bully and beat up neighbor nestlings.

The abusive adults patrol the breeding colony, searching for unguarded chicks. They frequently bite and peck the chicks, and even make sexual advances, sometimes leaving the chicks bleeding and stressed. Female adults show more aggressive behavior than males do, on average.

The young birds nest years later in the colony where they were born, making them ideal models for studying the effects of "chick" abuse on lifelong behavior.

The researchers collected data during three breeding seasons documenting which nestlings suffered abuse or neglect, then several years later evaluated their behavior as adults in the same colony. They tracked the birds and identified them using leg bands.

The findings shed important light on animal behavior. "This is not some contrived experimental situation with freaked out captive animals. This is an animal in a natural situation experiencing natural stressors when young. And, the outcome is their behavior later is influenced by the social stress they experienced," Anderson said. "As we determine how similar the physiology of this response is to the human situation, we may find opportunities for research on this stress response that are not possible to do with humans."

Co-authors on the study included Wake Forest graduate students Elaine T. Porter, Jacquelyn K. Grace, Jill A. Awkerman, and Mark A. Westbrock and technicians Kevin T. Birchler, Alex R. Gunderson, and Eric G. Schneider.

The Wake Forest team of researchers is already exploring physiological responses to abuse and have found a dramatic increase in corticosterone, the primary avian stress hormone, after a chick has experienced abuse. The surge in stress hormone may influence adult bird behavior. The study, led by doctoral student Jacquelyn Grace, was published recently in the journal, Hormones and Behavior.

"It's fascinating that what many would consider an extremely complex human phenomenon is also occurring - perhaps through the same physiological mechanism in Nazca boobies, which are more closely related to crocodiles than mammals," Grace said. "Both studies suggest Nazca boobies might be a good model system to begin understanding the mechanisms underlying the cycle of violence in humans."


Contact: Cheryl Walker
Wake Forest University

Related biology news :

1. Vanderbilt ethicist to study return of results issue involving children in genomics studies
2. Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy
3. Parents feel shock, anxiety and the need to protect children with genital ambiguity
4. Foreign children take at least 6 years to learn the language used in school
5. Stress drives alcoholics children to drink
6. Study finds an increase of children accidentally poisoned with pharmaceuticals
7. Innovating to improve women and childrens health
8. Developing technologies to improve the treatment of craniosynostosis in children
9. Stressed dad = depressed children? Investigating the paternal transmission of stress
10. Parents stress leaves lasting marks on children’s genes: UBC-CFRI research
11. Vitamin C may be beneficial for asthmatic children
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Child abuse in birds: Study documents 'cycle of violence' in nature
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 4, 2017 KEY FINDINGS ... to expand at a CAGR of 25.76% during the ... is the primary factor for the growth of the ... MARKET INSIGHTS The global stem ... technology, application, and geography. The stem cell market of ...
(Date:4/3/2017)... 3, 2017  Data captured by IsoCode, ... detected a statistically significant association between the ... treatment and objective response of cancer patients ... predict whether cancer patients will respond to ... well as to improve both pre-infusion potency testing ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... 30, 2017 The research team of The ... (3D) fingerprint identification by adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae recovery ... of speed and accuracy for use in identification, crime investigation, immigration ... ... A research team ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... and pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro fertilization (IVF) ... maternal age to IVF success. , After comparing the results from the fresh ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... For the second time in three years, ... Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday, October 10th, ... mission is to change the trajectory of STEM education in America by dramatically ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... innovation and business process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, ... conference in San Francisco. , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... N.C. (PRWEB) , ... October 09, 2017 , ... At ... announced Dr. Christopher Stubbs, a professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, ... Stubbs was a member of the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: