CAMBRIDGE, England, March 12 (UPI) — Maternal information transmitted to an egg lets prenatal chicks know how much food they’re likely to get once they’re born, scientists in Britain said.
If a prenatal chick gets a message that it has generous parents, it will beg more vigorously for food after hatching. Chicks destined to be raised by stingier parents are less demanding, said Rebecca Kilner, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge.
Chicks gain weight more rapidly because they match their demands to the parents’ supply of food, and can avoid begging too little or wasting effort on unrewarded begging, Kilner said in a release.
Kilner and her team made the discovery by exchanging eggs between canaries’ nests so that the chicks grew up in an environment that they were not expecting.
The discovery dispels the belief that mother birds manipulate their offspring in a way that suits the mother more than the chick.
“What we’ve shown is the reverse: these substances are actually there to suit the chick,” Kilner said.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.