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11/05/2017 - Picky fruit-eating birds are more flexible

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 05/11/2017. Researchers from Senckenberg and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research have found that South American birds that are seasonally specialized on particular fruit types are the most flexible in switching to different fruit types in other seasons. This flexibility in their diet is good news in view of the predicted loss of plant species under global change. The study is published today in ‘Journal of Animal Ecology’.

Patagioneas
A picky eater, but a flexible one – the
South American pigeon species patagioneas
plumbea. Copyright: D. Matthias Dehling

The Plumbeous pigeon is a picky eater. Whereas its relatives on European streets and squares feed on whatever they encounter, its South American relative almost exclusively feeds on certain fruits. Together with other birds such as toucans or the turkey-like guans it belongs to a bunch of large fruit-eating birds that are specialized on particular types of fruits. One might think that being peculiar goes hand-in-hand with being inflexible in food choice – however, it does not.

“We compared neotropic fruit-eating birds that are specialized on a small range of fruit resources in a particular season with birds that eat a large ranege of fruits. The specialists are those which are most flexible in adapting their foraging choices across seasons”, explains Irene Bender, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), lead author of a new study on this topic. She adds “The flexible avian fruit eaters prefer to feed on large fruits. However, their favourite resources are not constantly available throughout the year which forces them to switch.”

Andigena
Toucans such as andigena hyploglauca may
be more able to adapt to global change and
human disturbance than previously thought.
Copyright: D. Matthias Dehling

The researchers’ surprising observations shed light on the question how species might respond to resource fluctuations that are not naturally determined. “This flexibility of consumer species may be an important, but so far widely neglected mechanism that could stabilize consumer-resource relationships, for instance in response to human disturbance and environmental change. Being flexible might mean that specialized foragers are able to adapt to future changes in resource availability.” says Dr. Matthias Schleuning, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre.

The study was based on observational records by a team around Irene Bender and Matthias Dehling of the fruit choices of birds in the Manú Biosphere Reserve on the western slopes of the Andes in Peru. The team also measured traits of the plants which provided the fruits, such as plant height and fruit size. The flexibility of bird species was defined as their ability to switch seasonally among plant species with different traits; their specialization was measured by comparing their fruit choices to those of other bird species in the community.

Contact

Irene M.A. Bender
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre &
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (idiv)
Phone +49 (0)69- 7542 1875
Irene.bender@senckenberg.de

PD Dr. Matthias Schleuning
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
Phone +49 (0)69- 7542 1892
Matthias.schleuning@senckenberg.de

Sabine Wendler
Press officer
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
Phone +49 (0)69- 7542 1818 Sabine.wendler@senckenberg.de

Publication

Bender, I.M.A. et al. (2017): Functionally specialised birds respond flexibly to seasonal changes in fruit availability. Journal of Animal Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12683

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To study and understand nature with its limitless diversity of living creatures and to preserve and manage it in a sustainable fashion as the basis of life for future generations – this has been the goal of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (Senckenberg Nature Research Society) for 200 years. This integrative “geobiodiversity research” and the dissemination of research and science are among Senckenberg’s main tasks. Three nature museums in Frankfurt, Görlitz and Dresden display the diversity of life and the earth’s development over millions of years. The Senckenberg Nature Research Society is a member of the Leibniz Association. The Senckenberg Nature Museum in Frankfurt am Main is supported by the City of Frankfurt am Main as well as numerous other partners. Additional information can be found at www.senckenberg.de.

200 years of Senckenberg! 2017 marks Senckenberg’s anniversary year. For 200 years, the society, which was founded in 1817, has dedicated itself to nature research with curiosity, passion and involvement. Senckenberg will celebrate its 200-year success story with a colorful program consisting of numerous events, specially designed exhibitions and a grand museum party in the fall. Of course, the program also involves the presentation of current research and future projects. Additional information can be found at: www.200jahresenckenberg.

 

Press contact

Dr. Sören Dürr
Tel.: 069 7542-1580

Alexandra Donecker
Tel.: 069 7542-1561
Mobil: 0152-0923 1133

Judith Jördens
Tel.: 069 7542-1434
Mobil: 0172-5842340

Email: pressestelle@senckenberg.de

Senckenberg
Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt

 

20/10/2017 13:30:40


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