The study, published today in the journal PLOS One, is one of the first to show that birds have learned to cope with environmental stress, even when they’re faced with threats that humans could never imagine.
“This is a very powerful finding, one that could have major implications for how birds deal with threats in the wild,” said lead author of the study David D. Wilson, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The research, conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was led by a team of researchers from the U-M.
Wilson’s team first learned that some birds are able to adapt to harsh environments, including a changing climate and changing food supplies.
In their study, the researchers used a model of how the natural world works to model how birds would respond to changes in environmental stressors.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.
The team, which included scientists from the University in South Africa, the University at Buffalo, the Natural History Museum in London and the University, also included a researcher from the USDA’s Biological Services Science Center in Jackson, Miss.
“What we learned is that if you look at a bird’s environment, its habitat, the food it has access to, and the type of climate it’s adapted to, you can predict how it would respond,” said Wilson, who is also a graduate student at U-C- Santa Cruz, where he is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.
In the past, Wilson said he’s seen birds adapt to natural environmental stresses by using a variety of strategies.
For instance, they may migrate to higher altitudes to find higher food sources.
They may stay near a warmer environment to help regulate temperatures.
Or they may use camouflage, or use a combination of these strategies to keep predators away.
The researchers also saw how these strategies worked in a field experiment, which involved laying down a number of different types of nets in different habitats.
In one, they laid down a net with a single netting mesh on top of a water body.
They laid down other nets with different mesh, but one with a mesh that was not connected to the water body to prevent water from getting trapped underneath it.
And they placed a different mesh on the water surface that connected to a different water body, but with a higher concentration of netting material.
The experiment was repeated with other species of birds.
The netting on top was not necessarily a deterrent to predators, the team reported in the study.
Instead, it was a way for the birds to hide under the netting, allowing them to swim away from predators.
The team found that birds are much more adept at adapting to environmental stress when they are exposed to an external source of stress, like a predator or the environment they live in.
“It’s really remarkable how much more effective these strategies are when the predator is outside,” said study co-author Peter K. Sadowski, an assistant professor of biology at the university.
The findings have important implications for understanding the evolution of bird behavior, Wilson noted.
The new study also found that the most common types of predator in a population of wild birds are birds that eat prey that they can see.
“We have a large number of species that have evolved over the past century to avoid predators,” Wilson said.
“And when predators are present, it’s really important for these birds to be able to avoid them.”
Wilson and his team are still investigating how the birds used these strategies in their experiments.
Wilson said his team is working to figure out how to test the new theory.
“The next step is to see if we can actually see how well these strategies work in real-world situations, what kind of changes they make,” Wilson told National Geographic.
“I would like to see the experiment in more real-life situations, and we’ll see what happens.”
The research was funded in part by the U and S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ubiq Science and Technology Program, the US Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Geographic Society, and U-T.