A Newcastle University (UK) study has shown that baby starling 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 other difficulties as a chick made a long-lasting impression on a starling's relationship with food. The new study, published in an open-access article in the November 2015 issue of Animal Behaviour and funded by the Biotechnology and Bilogical Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), showed that the smallest chicks in European starling families changed their adult feeding behavior, resulting in a fatter body composition in the fully developed birds. The article is titled “Early Life Adversity Increases Foraging and Information Gathering in European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris.” Dr. Andrews, of the Newcastle University Centre for Behaviorr 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." To ensure that some birds were disadvantaged by experiencing greater competition, smaller starling chicks were placed in a brood with significantly larger hatchlings.
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