duce more new queens, which could be critical to a colony's fitness. Now a research team led by Thomas Hovestadt (University of Wuerzburg, Germany) has developed a theoretical model that illustrates how this happens. The model posits that as some young ant larvae are eaten by the fly larvae, the colony shifts food provisions to the survivors. The better-provisioned larvae are then more likely to become queens. At the same time, by reducing the size of the brood, the parasite keeps the colony from producing more brood than it needs. The model makes several predictions about how the dynamics of this relationship should play out over time, most of which are well supported by field observations of colonies. It's the first time such a model has been developed to explore consequences of parasitism at the colony level, Hovestadt says.
Thomas Hovestadt, Jeremy A. Thomas, Oliver Mitesser, Graham W. Elmes, Karsten Schnrogge, "Unexpected Benefit of a Social Parasite for a Key Fitness Component of Its Ant Host." The American Naturalist 179:1 (January 2012).
A rough start for a hatchling could mean duller plumage for life
A rough start in life could lead to duller plumage for some birds, a study by Oxford researchers Simon Evans and Ben Sheldon suggests. The research focused on great tits, a small garden bird common across Europe. The birds are distinguishable by their yellow chest feathers, but the color can vary from a vibrant yellow to a duller, almost grayish shade. Evans and Sheldon wanted to see if this color variation was a result of genetic or environmental factors. Genetic testing of great tits showed that while genes play a role in plumage color, they don't tell the whole story. Observations from more than 500 nest boxes in Bagley Woods in the U.K. showed that birds from larger broods, and those that were hatched later in the breeding season tended to have duller chest feathers. "Plumage coloration is often considPage: 1 2 3 4 Related biology news :1
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