Scientists stunned by Zebra finch discovery

Scientists stunned by Zebra finch discovery

It's a fascinating discovery that could change how we think about this amazing bird.

Are Zebra finches teaching their young about a very heated political issue — climate change and global warming? That’s what scientists think based on research into the phenomenon of “incubation calling” in birds, which may be helping to prepare chicks for a warming climate.

Incubation calling refers to the act of singing to unborn chicks inside eggs. Scientists examined the calls of 61 female and 61 male Zebra finches, and found that parents only sang at the end of incubation and only at a certain temperature threshold — at least 78 degrees Fahrenheit, according to an American Association for the Advancement of Science statement.

Scientists looked deeper into these results and found that chicks born after receiving this sort of incubation calling tended to weigh less than normal, and gained less weight as they matured. Smaller bodies may be better in warming climate conditions because there is less oxidative damage.

“Such profound and long lasting effects of prenatal acoustic experience had never been demonstrated before,” Lead researcher Dr. Mylene Mariette said in the statement from Deakin University. “Our work highlights that acoustic environment may have a much stronger impact on development than we currently realise. This is also the first evidence that parents can adjust the development of their offspring to ambient temperature in warm-blooded species. Our priority is to establish the physiological mechanisms underlying these effects and how widespread this strategy is in birds.”

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