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.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Bird evolution unique in seeing shrinking testes

DECEMBER 3, 2019 

Birds are the only group of vertebrate animals to have repeatedly evolved smaller testes over time according to a new study. 

A paper published in Ecology Letters by University of Reading researchers and colleagues has found that natural selection has led to smaller testes sizes among socially monogamous birds. The team suggest that the developments of mating behavior in birds may have led to an evolutionary loop that has led to smaller testes. 

Dr. Joanna Baker, a research fellow at the University of Reading, said, "Rapidly shrinking testes may have happened as a result of the fantastic diversity of behaviors and traits we observe in birds today: from beautiful plumage colorations in birds of paradise, elaborate dancing displays in songbirds, through to dedicated parental care through extreme weather conditions in penguins. 

"Bigger testes produce more sperm and so give animals a competitive advantage over their relatives with smaller testes, but are also very expensive to grow and maintain. Around 90% of birds are socially monogamous—where producing more sperm doesn't really matter—and so there has been lots of opportunity to reduce testes size in favor of other adaptations." 

No other vertebrate group, including mammals, frogs, fish, and reptiles showed any similar pattern to birds. Although lots of frogs are socially monogamous, unlike birds, they tend to be external fertilizers, so producing lots of sperm is probably still likely to produce extreme competitive advantages. 

In all vertebrates, testes size is astonishingly diverse, with enormous explosions of testes size change—both reductions and enlargements—during the last 400 million years of vertebrate evolutionary history. 

No comments:

Post a Comment