Super spiders make bolder birds

Issued: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 09:46:00 BST

Recent research has revealed that by feeding spiders to their chicks, birds can manipulate the personality and learning ability of their young.

In a report published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, University of Glasgow researchers reveal that birds preferentially feed their young spiders containing taurine. Taurine is an amino acid which is also found in breast milk and energy drinks. The beneficial qualities of taurine include aiding the development of premature babies and reducing blood pressure in human adults, but it has not previously been known how taurine influences the development of birds.Blue-tit chick

By comparing the behaviour of wild blue tits that were fed a taurine supplement, mimicking a diet rich in spiders, with blue tits that were not, researchers were able to observe the long term impacts of this vital nutrient.

Lead researcher Dr Kate Arnold said: “We found that taurine has a significant impact on the personality and memory of the birds. Those who were fed taurine as chicks were on average much bolder and better at learning in adulthood, than their counterparts who were not fed the extra taurine. This is the first time that we have been able to fully explain why birds feed their young spiders at a particular stage in their development and how parents can permanently alter the behaviour of their offspring via the food that they select.”

The research paper can be accessed at the following weblink: http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/


Notes for editors

For more information please contact Kate Richardson at the University of Glasgow ’s Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3683 or email K.Richardson@admin.gla.ac.uk

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