Yearbook 2013

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Environmental factors can have a large impact on behaviour and the underlying physiology. For example, island canaries advance the onset of breeding in response to growing plants. In zebra finches both song and the song control regions in the brain show low heritability but are highly sensitive to changes of the environment. In contrast, brain size largely depends on the interaction between genes and the environment. In this way additive genetic variation is maintained. These results emphasize the major importance of environmental factors for vocal learning and neural development in songbirds. more
Hormones, as parts of complex regulatory systems, mediate environmental adjustments of organisms. Can hormonal systems change fast enough to keep up with rapid changes in the environment? In birds, concentrations of the hormone corticosterone are related to evolved differences in reproductive investment. Even within a bird species corticosterone patterns predict the reproductive success of individuals. Future studies will determine selection pressures, heritabilities and rate of evolutionary changes in hormones. more
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