A poor start in life creates differences in eating behavior modeled in starlings
Date: November 6, 2015
Source: Newcastle University
A Newcastle University study has shown that baby birds that have a difficult start in life grow to be fatter and greedier than their more fortunate siblings.
The researchers, led by Professor Melissa Bateson and Dr Clare Andrews, discovered that stress and difficulties as a chick made a long lasting impression on a starling's relationship with food.
The study, published in the journal Animal Behaviour and funded by the BBSRC, showed that the smallest chicks in European starling families changed their adult feeding behaviour, resulting in a fatter body composition in the fully developed birds.
Dr Andrews, of the Newcastle University Centre for Behaviour and Evolution said: "Building up body fat reserves as a safeguard against times of potential future famine is an evolved survival mechanism. What we have shown is that birds that had struggled against larger brothers or sisters for food early on were keener on finding food and tended to overeat when they became adults."
"This study may also teach us something about ourselves as surprisingly, there's evidence that obesity is common in people lacking a reliable supply of food. Perhaps people too have evolved to eat more and take more interest in food if worried where their next meal will come from."