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What Drives the Evolution of Bird Nest Structures?

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How to protect your chicks from predators? Build a dome over them! Birds started building domes over their nests to protect them from predators when nesting on the ground, according to a new paper published this week in The Auk: Ornithological Advances. Zachary Hall of St. Andrews and his colleagues tested this hypothesis by collecting previously published descriptions of the nests of 155 species of Old World babbler and mapping nest height and structure to the birds’ family tree. Their analysis confirmed that babblers’ ancestors likely built off-ground, cup-shaped nests, and that the addition of a dome to cover the nest coevolved with switching to nesting at ground level. This is one of the first studies to examine the evolutionary forces that shape the incredible diversity of nest structures among birds. Read the full paper at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-15-23.1.

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