'Green incubation': avian offspring benefit from aromatic nest herbs through improved parental incubation behaviour

Gwinner, H., Capilla Lasheras, P., Cooper, C. and Helm, B. (2018) 'Green incubation': avian offspring benefit from aromatic nest herbs through improved parental incubation behaviour. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 285(1880), 20180376. (doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0376) (PMID:29875299) (PMCID:PMC6015870)

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Abstract

Development of avian embryos requires thermal energy, usually from parents. Parents may however trades off catering for embryonic requirements against their own need to forage through intermittent incubation. This dynamically adjusted behaviour can be affected by properties of the nest. Here we experimentally show a novel mechanism by which parents, through incorporation of aromatic herbs into nests, effectively modify their incubation behaviour to the benefit of their offspring. Our study species, the European starling, includes in its nest aromatic herbs which promote offspring fitness. We provided wild starlings with artificial nests including or excluding the typically selected fresh herbs and found strong support for our prediction of facilitated incubation. Herb effects were not explained by thermal changes of the nests per se, but by modified parental behaviours. Egg temperatures and nest attendance were higher in herb than herbless nests, egg temperatures dropped less frequently below critical thresholds, and parents started their active day earlier. These effects were dynamic over time and particularly strong during early incubation. Incubation period was shorter in herb nests, and nestlings were heavier one week after hatching. Aromatic herbs hence influenced incubation in beneficial ways for offspring, possibly through pharmacological effects on incubating parents.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Capilla Lasheras, Dr Pablo and Helm, Dr Barbara
Authors: Gwinner, H., Capilla Lasheras, P., Cooper, C., and Helm, B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:0962-8452
ISSN (Online):1471-2954
Published Online:06 June 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences 285(1880): 20180376
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
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