Early life disadvantage strengthens flight performance trade-offs in European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris



O'Hagan D, Andrews CP, Bedford T, Bateson M & Nettle D (2015) Early life disadvantage strengthens flight performance trade-offs in European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. Animal Behaviour, 102, pp. 141-148.

Developmental stress has been shown to affect adult flight performance in birds, with both negative and positive effects reported in the literature. Previous studies have used developmental manipulations that had substantial effects on patterns of growth. They have also examined mean levels of flight performance per individual, rather than investigating how developmental stress might alter trade-offs between different components of flight performance. We recorded multiple components of escape flight performance in 20 adult European starlings previously subjected to a manipulation likely to have altered levels of developmental stress. Siblings had been cross-fostered to nests where they were either slightly larger (advantaged treatment) or slightly smaller (disadvantaged treatment) than their competitors. The manipulation had no detectable effect on growth. However, developmental treatment affected performance in escape flights a year later by strengthening the trade-offs between different flight parameters. Disadvantaged birds faced a steeper trade-off between take-off speed and take-off angle, and a steeper trade-off between take-off angle and total time in flight, than advantaged birds. The results suggest that even subtle early life adversity that has no obvious effect on growth or size can leave a lasting legacy in the form of constraints on locomotor performance later in life.

developmental stress; early life adversity; flight performance; locomotor performance; starlings

Animal Behaviour: Volume 102

FundersBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Newcastle University
Publication date30/04/2015
Publication date online13/02/2015
Date accepted by journal05/12/2014
PublisherElsevier BV

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Dr Clare Andrews

Dr Clare Andrews

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology