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Make Way for Ducklings – Science Nation

Make Way for Ducklings – Science Nation


MILES O’BRIEN: Mama bird knows best
when it comes to taking care of her babies. But when food gets scarce and she is forced
to fly longer distances to grab a bite, her egg sitting time drops off. What impact
does this have on her brood? BILL HOPKINS: I guess everybody,
from a human health perspective, knows that what a mother does during pregnancy can
have all sorts of effects on her babies. And so we study how these little guys can be
affected by the things that mom does. SARAH DURANT: If you look really closely,
you can see that embryo moving some. So he’s moving right here. MILES O’BRIEN: With support from the National
Science Foundation, Ecologist Bill Hopkins and Sarah DuRant are studying wood ducks to better
understand the impact of mom’s nesting behavior on her ducklings and their
ability to survive. SARAH DURANT: How much time a female
spends on her nest is going to influence the temperature that that nest is at. MILES O’BRIEN: They’re finding that just a
slightly cooler nest can dramatically alter the health and vitality of a duckling.
They incubate eggs at different temperatures to simulate warmer and cooler nesting conditions. SARAH DURANT: So our embryos in the
lowest temperature are going to develop a little bit slower than embryos in our
higher temperatures. MILES O’BRIEN: And once hatched…. BILL HOPKINS: They may look healthy,
but if you actually look–dig a little deeper, we see that they have a number of physiological
deficits, so their immune systems aren’t developing as rapidly. They appear to be almost developmentally stunted. We see that they
have changes in terms of endocrine function, in terms of stress hormones. And they swim slower
than the same individuals from the same clutch. So swimming is a critical part of their early,
early survival. They’ve got to avoid predators. MILES O’BRIEN: This research is not just about
wood ducks. It has implications for many birds living in conditions where their nesting behaviors
and habitats are disrupted. SARAH DURANT: If their immune system isn’t
functioning as well as it needs to be , and disease wipes through,
then those guys aren’t going to make it. MILES O’BRIEN: Hopkins hopes these findings will
improve future conservation strategies. BILL HOPKINS: If you have an area say that’s
subjected to ecotourism, where you may have a lot of disturbance around nesting areas, those sorts
of areas may actually come at a cost. MILES O’BRIEN: That could adversely affect the
health and vigor of future generations. Hopkins and his team want to learn all they can
about what it will take to keep these little guys thriving,
and following in mom’s footsteps. For Science Nation, I’m Miles O’Brien.

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