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CORDIS

Sexual Selection and Sleep in Arctic Shorebirds

Project description

Why do males have most offspring when they don't snooze?

Dozens of species of shorebirds breed in the Arctic. Each year, millions of these birds migrate from Central and South America to spend the summer in the Arctic and raise their offspring. Studies show that some male shorebirds strongly reduce sleep during the breeding season, and that those that sleep the least have the most offspring. The EU-funded SSIAS project will explore how mating behaviour affects reproductive success in Arctic shorebirds. It will focus on two species: polygynous pectoral sandpipers, and sex role-reversed red phalaropes. Specifically, it will use state-of-the-art accelerometers, machine learning models and conventional field methods to investigate whether the duration and frequency of courtship and territorial behaviours predict the number of sired offspring, and whether and how these behaviours vary with time spent awake.

Objective

What is the best way to attract and pursue a mate? This question is central for understanding how animal behaviour evolves through sexual selection. In the arctic, some male shorebirds almost entirely forgo sleep during the breeding season, and males that sleep least have the most offspring. These findings defy our understanding of the importance of sleep for optimal performance. So which specific behaviours are key to the success of these birds?

Here, we propose using state-of-the-art accelerometers and machine learning models, together with conventional field methods, to explore how behaviour affects reproductive success in arctic shorebirds. Specifically, we will investigate whether the duration and frequency of courtship and territorial behaviours predicts number of offspring, and whether these behaviours vary with time spent awake. This unique research will focus on two species: polygynous pectoral sandpipers and sex-role-reversed red phalaropes. The research will combine the supervisor’s well-established methods for studying arctic shorebirds, the supervisor’s expertise in sexual selection, the researcher’s experience collecting and analysing large accelerometry datasets, and the researcher’s expertise in avian sleep.

The proposed research will have four key implications. First, it will reveal whether overall time spent active is most important for reproductive success, as implied by previous research in pectoral sandpipers, or whether specific behaviours are key. Second, it will examine how extreme sleep loss relates to behaviour in wild birds, which might offer insights into sleep’s functions. Third, it will elucidate the behavioural strategies of males and females in a novel sex-role-reversed mating system, and compare these with a polygynous species in the same environment. Finally, the research will test the extent to which accelerometry can distinguish behaviour in a natural context, which has broader value for behavioural research.

Coordinator

MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FORDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN EV
Net EU contribution
€ 174 806,40
Address
HOFGARTENSTRASSE 8
80539 Munchen
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 174 806,40