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Natural selection at work: Smarter chickadees survive the winter more often


chickadee eating at feederHere’s an excellent illustration of the power of Darwinian natural selection:

Enhanced spatial cognition and brain power evolves via natural selection, an elaborate study of hundreds of mountain chickadees in the Sierra Nevada has found. Using passive integrative transponder (PIT) tags in combination with radio frequency identification-equipped feeders, scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno have tracked feeding behaviors and measured learning and memory of these non-migratory birds that live year-round in the high-elevation forest northwest of Truckee, California.

“This is a unique program, set in the wilderness, so we get unique results,” Vladimir Pravosudov, lead researcher and biology professor at the University’s College of Science, said. “Over the years, we’ve banded and tagged thousands of chickadees and observed their spatial cognition using custom-designed and built feeders that allow us to track how individuals learn and remember. And now we have tested whether individuals with better learning and memory performance are more likely to survive the winter.”…

“Our results provide the first direct evidence for natural selection on spatial cognition in wild food-caching mountain chickadees,” he said. “Taken together, our results suggest that natural selection associated with environmental differences, like those in winter conditions between high and low elevations in the mountains, might be generating intraspecific differences in cognitive abilities. Our evidence suggests that natural selection, rather than some other potential variables that critics have said could be responsible for the results of earlier comparative studies inconclusive, is the main driver of such differences.” Mike Wolterbeek, “Natural selection and spatial memory link shown in mountain chickadee research” at Nevada Today

Good, careful work.

In short, the chickadees with better skills were more likely to survive the winter. None of them evolves to the point where they are enrolled at the local community college. That’s as much as the real Darwinism will get you.

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See also: Taming the silver fox, taming ourselves? Oh, please …

Does the war on cancer reveal limits to random mutation?


Natural selection: Could it be the single greatest idea ever invented?

"might be" News, I saw the above conclusion and decided to just think about a valentine for my cat instead of reading the rest of the article. Andrewasauber
February 14, 2019
12:20 PM

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