Navigation Links
Could smell play a role in the origin of new bird species?
Date:3/23/2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two recently diverged populations of a southern California songbird produce unique odors, suggesting smell could contribute to the reproductive isolation that accompanies the origin of new bird species. The Indiana University Bloomington study of organic compounds present in the preen oils of Dark-eyed Juncos is described in this month's Behavioral Ecology.

"There's so much we don't know about the role of smell in bird behavior," said biologist Danielle Whittaker, the study's lead author. "Differences in smell could be affecting sexual behavior, parental care and even contribute to speciation."

Whittaker is a postdoctoral researcher in IU Bloomington biologist Ellen Ketterson's research group.

Led by Whittaker, a team of IU Bloomington biologists and chemists examined the chemical composition of preen oil, which is a compound birds secrete and spread around their bodies to straighten, protect and waterproof their feathers. To analyze the odor chemistry of preen oil, the scientists isolated 19 volatile molecules that can achieve a gaseous, more sniff-friendly state. The chemical isolation and analysis portion of the interdisciplinary project was led by IU Bloomington Department of Chemistry Distinguished Professor Milos Novotny and Senior Scientist Helena Soini.

The scientists found that each junco possesses a unique and recognizable odor profile that was stable over a two-week period and that could be used to distinguish it from other individuals. The odor profiles of male birds differed from those of female birds, and birds' odor profiles differed depending on which population they were from.

"This is the most comprehensive study of its kind," Whittaker said. "And as far as we know, it is the first time anyone has looked closely at these chemical compounds at the population level in any bird."

Last year, Whittaker, Ketterson, and others reported in the Journal of Avian Biology that juncos can use preen oils to distinguish members of their own species from other species, and between individuals of their own species. The present Behavioral Ecology study went a step further to see whether the chemical composition of preen oil varies among individuals, sexes and populations -- which might be meaningful in an evolutionary context.

The team collected juvenile juncos from two populations, one that resides in and around the University of California San Diego campus in La Jolla, Calif., and another that lives in the Laguna Mountains, about 42 miles east. After capture, the birds were transported to aviaries in Bloomington, Ind., and raised under identical environmental conditions. The scientists used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to isolate 19 volatile compounds from the preen oils which are secreted from the birds' uropygial glands near the base of the tail.

The researchers confirmed that individual birds sampled over time produce levels of each of the volatile compounds that remain more or less constant. They also found gross differences between males and females, and between juncos from the UC San Diego population and birds from the mountains. These population differences were found even though the birds were raised in identical conditions, suggesting that the odors have a genetic, rather than an environmental or developmental basis.

The particular suite of 19 compounds is, as far as the scientists know, unique to juncos. However, this area of research is so new that odor chemistry profiles have been documented for only a few species. This field of research is growing rapidly as biologists realize the potential importance of scent in bird communication and evolution.

Until just a few years ago, most bird biologists believed that smell played little or no role in bird behavior. The olfactory bulb -- a portion of vertebrate brain known to interpret odors -- is small relative to birds' brain sizes. Birds also lack the vomeronasal organ that many mammals (and reptiles) use to sense pheromones specifically.

Then came the discovery that sea-faring petrels can smell so well that they can identify other birds through sense of smell alone. This discovery kicked off a re-examination of several bird species, and preliminary results suggest smell in birds is a behavioral cue that has been overlooked for far too long.

"We still don't know how common it is for birds to use smell," Whittaker said. "The evidence so far suggests there is much for us to learn."


'/>"/>

Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Newly created cancer stem cells could aid breast cancer research
2. Obesity and lack of exercise could enhance the risk of pancreatic cancer
3. Finding that 1-in-a-billion that could lead to disease
4. 60 second test could help early diagnosis of common brain diseases
5. Auto immune response creates barrier to fertility; could be a step in speciation
6. Paracetamol, one of most used analgesics, could slow down bone growth
7. Drug could improve pregnancy outcomes in wider range of women with insulin resistance
8. Thousands of starving children could be restored to health with peanut butter program
9. Nanotech could make solar energy as easy and cheap as growing grass
10. CO2 emissions could violate EPA ocean-quality standards within decades
11. MIT model could improve some drugs effectiveness
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Could smell play a role in the origin of new bird species?
(Date:2/8/2016)... 8, 2016 Worldcore ... presents innovation for clients, comfort and unbeatable security, ... --> Worldcore is the first ... clients, comfort and unbeatable security, with a Voice ... Worldcore is the first EU-regulated global ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... , Feb. 3, 2016 Vigilant Solutions ... Police Department in Missouri solved ... plate reader (LPR) data from Vigilant Solutions. ... case in which the victim was walking out of a convenience store and ... space next to his vehicle, striking his vehicle and ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... Feb. 2, 2016 Technology Enhancements Accelerate Growth of ... of the digital and computed radiography markets in ... and Indonesia (TIM). It provides ... size, as well as regional market drivers and restraints. ... market penetration and market attractiveness, both for digital and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... -- Wellcentive today announced it has been selected by FamilyCare ... community care organization (CCO) with more than 130,000 ... and care management solutions and services. Wellcentive,s capabilities ... managers, analysts and care managers while providing insight ... members. Oregon . ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... SANTA CRUZ, Calif. , Feb. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... accepting applications to its beta program for a planned ... co-founder, will present the company,s metagenomic genome assembly method ... 2016 Advances in Genome Biology & Technology conference in ... novo  assembly of these highly complex datasets is difficult. ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... BioInformant announces the February 2016 release of its ... and Technologies – Market Size, Segments, Trends, and Projections ... The first and only market research firm ... more than a decade of historical information on all ... type. This powerful 175 page global strategic report contains ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... Global Stem ... agreement with Bankok,Thailand-based Global Stem Cells Network (GSCN) to distribute exosome injection and ... countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: