skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Vernasco, Ben"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Our understanding of state-dependent behaviour is reliant on identifying physiological indicators of condition. Telomeres are of growing interest for understanding behaviour as they capture differences in biological state and residual lifespan. To understand the significance of variable telomere lengths for behaviour and test two hypotheses describing the relationship between telomeres and behaviour (i.e. the causation and the selective adoption hypotheses), we assessed if telomere lengths are longitudinally repeatable traits related to spring migratory behaviour in captive pine siskins ( Spinus pinus ). Pine siskins are nomadic songbirds that exhibit highly flexible, facultative migrations, including a period of spring nomadism. Captive individuals exhibit extensive variation in spring migratory restlessness and are an excellent system for mechanistic studies of migratory behaviour. Telomere lengths were found to be significantly repeatable ( R = 0.51) over four months, and shorter pre-migratory telomeres were associated with earlier and more intense expression of spring nocturnal migratory restlessness. Telomere dynamics did not vary with migratory behaviour. Our results describe the relationship between telomere length and migratory behaviour and provide support for the selective adoption hypothesis. More broadly, we provide a novel perspective on the significance of variable telomere lengths for animal behaviour and the timing of annualmore »cycle events.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  3. Physiological preparations for migration generally reflect migratory strategy. Migrant birds fuel long-distance flight primarily with lipids, but carrying excess fuel is costly; thus, the amount of fat deposited prior to departure often reflects the anticipated flight duration or distance between refueling bouts. Seasonal pre-migratory deposition of fat is well documented in regular seasonal migrants, but is less described for more facultative species. We analyze fat deposits of free-living birds across several taxa of facultative migrants in the songbird subfamily Carduelinae, including house finches ( Haemorhous mexicanus ), American goldfinches ( Spinus tristis ), pine siskins ( Spinus pinus ) and four different North American ecotypes of red crossbills ( Loxia curvirostra ), to evaluate seasonal fat deposition during facultative migratory periods. Our data suggest that the extent of seasonal fat deposits corresponds with migratory tendency in these facultative taxa. Specifically, nomadic red crossbills with a seasonally predictable annual movement demonstrated relatively large seasonal fat deposits coincident with the migratory periods. In contrast, pine siskins, thought to be more variable in timing and initiation of nomadic movements, had smaller peaks in fat deposits during the migratory season, and the partial migrant American goldfinch and the resident house finch showed no peaksmore »coincident with migratory periods. Within the red crossbills, those ecotypes that are closely associated with pine habitats showed larger peaks in fat deposits coincident with autumn migratory periods and had higher wing loading, whereas those ecotypes associated with spruces, Douglas-fir and hemlocks showed larger peaks coincident with spring migratory periods and lower wing loading. We conclude that population averages of fat deposits do reflect facultative migration strategies in these species, as well as the winter thermogenic challenges at the study locations. A difference in seasonal fattening and wing loading among red crossbill ecotypes is consistent with the possibility that they differ in their migratory biology, and we discuss these differences in light of crossbill reproductive schedules and phenologies of different conifer species.« less