A prenatal scare gives birds bigger wings

The mere presence of a predator can change the behaviour of prey animals. Numerous studies show that birds which are frequently presented with predators increase their nest-defence behaviours and usher their youngsters out of the nest faster, presumably to stop them from being sitting ducks. Yet a new study suggests that predator effects could go beyond behaviour, to physiology.

It seems that the constant threat of predation could have a more subtle effect on prey animals than first thought.

Female birds that are exposed to predators while they are ovulating produce smaller offspring than unexposed females. The chicks may be smaller, but surprisingly, their wings grow faster and longer than those of chicks from unexposed mothers — an adaptation that might make them better at avoiding predators in flight. Read more here.

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