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Prenatal acoustic communication programs offspring for high posthatching temperatures in a songbird

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Science  19 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6301, pp. 812-814
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7049

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Abstract

In many species, embryos can perceive and learn external sounds. Yet, the possibility that parents may use these embryonic capacities to alter their offspring’s developmental trajectories has not been considered. Here, we demonstrate that zebra finch parents acoustically signal high ambient temperatures (above 26°C) to their embryos. We show that exposure of embryos to these acoustic cues alone adaptively alters subsequent nestling begging and growth in response to nest temperature and influences individuals’ reproductive success and thermal preferences as adults. These findings have implications for our understanding of maternal effects, phenotypic plasticity, developmental programming, and the adaptation of endothermic species to a warming world.

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