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

Lookup NU author(s): Dan O'Hagan, Dr Clare Andrews, Thomas Bedford, Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD, Professor Daniel Nettle



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


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. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour by Elsevier Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Hagan D, Andrews CP, Bedford T, Bateson M, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Behaviour

Year: 2015

Volume: 102

Pages: 141-148

Print publication date: 01/04/2015

Online publication date: 13/02/2015

Acceptance date: 05/12/2014

Date deposited: 30/04/2015

ISSN (print): 0003-3472

ISSN (electronic): 1095-8282

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.01.016


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Funder referenceFunder name
Graduate School, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University
BB/J016446/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council