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PNAS highlights for the week of April 25-29

Songbird Color Vision: Attracting Mates, Avoiding Predators

Differences in color vision allow songbirds to be less obvious to predators yet maintain their attractiveness to other songbirds, according to newly released research.

In some bird species, males attract mates with bright, elaborate plumage, but such conspicuous traits can draw the attention of predators. Birds can see ultraviolet (UV) light, but mammalian predators cannot, suggesting that UV-reflecting feathers may act as a private communication signal between birds. Such a signal, however, would not protect small birds from larger birds of prey.

Previous studies indicate that songbirds, such as sparrows, see shorter UV wavelengths compared with avian predators, such as hawks. To determine if differences in UV perception could influence detection in the wild, Anders deen and colleagues measured UV reflections from the plumage of Swedish songbirds within their natural habitats. Using mathematical models, the authors calculated how songbird plumage would be seen from the perspective of birds of prey versus other songbirds.

The researchers found that the songbirds' feathers were more conspicuous to other songbirds than to their avian predators, suggesting the evolution of a private signaling system. These results emphasize the importance of accounting for differently tuned sensory systems when studying animal behavior and evolution.

Chestnut Tree Clock Stops for Winter

The circadian rhythms of the chestnut tree go silent during cold winter months, according to researchers.

Winter dormancy is an important adaptive strategy that enables plants to persist during periods of stressful environmental conditions. Dormancy is induced by the short days and cold temperatures of winter.

Isabel Allona and colleagues investigated the role of the chestnut's circadian clock genes in regulating this period of dormancy. The researchers grew chestnut
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Contact: Leikny Johnson
PNASNews@nas.edu
202-334-1310
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
25-Apr-2005


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Related biology news :

1. Other highlights in the Aug. 7 JNCI
2. Other highlights in the July 24 JNCI
3. Other highlights from the July 10 JNCI
4. Other highlights in JNCI, June 26
5. Other highlights in JNCI, June 12
6. Other highlights from the June 6 JNCI
7. Other highlights in the May 16 JNCI
8. InfoSNM highlights advances in computer, information sciences for molecular imaging
9. Landmark study highlights complex genetic risk factors behind type 2 diabetes
10. Other highlights from the April 18 Journal of the National Cancer Institute
11. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols highlights reliable methods for gene and protein analyses

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