As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Longer-distance migratory birds may be smarter


Evidence shows the further birds flew, the more new neurons they had in their brain

Date:February 24, 2016
Source:University of Oxford

Birds that migrate the greatest distances have more new neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, suggests a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

For some time scholars have widely accepted the view that neurons, the cells that specialise in processing and transmitting information and contribute to brain plasticity, continue to be generated in the brains of animals even when they are adults. After being created in one part of the brain, the neurons then migrate to those regions of the brain that need them most.

The international research team, which included scientists from the University of Oxford, focused on the role played by neurons in two species, turtle doves and reed warblers, making their way from Africa to the Middle East or Europe. In both species, the researchers found that the proportion of new neurons increased in line with the migration distance. Interestingly, however, there was a distinct difference between the two species in the areas of the brain that incorporated the new neurons. In reed warblers, birds that migrate as individuals at night, new neurons were found mainly in the hippocampus -- a region associated with navigation. In turtle doves, a species that migrates as a group, the new neurons were found mainly in the nidopallium caudolateral, an area associated with communication skills.


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