Rethinking classic starling displacement experiments : evidence for innate or for learned migratory directions?
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In an attempt to encourage the discourse on sources of individual variation in seasonal migration patterns and the microevolution of bird migration, we here critically examine the published interpretations of a now classic displacement study with starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Based on the ring recoveries after experimental displacement towards the south and southeast of Dutch capture sites of over 18 000 hatch‐year and older starlings, in a series of analyses published in Ardea from 1958 to 1983, A. C. Perdeck established that displaced starlings showed appropriately changed orientations only when they were experienced. During both southward and northward migration, released adults navigated to an apparently previously learned goal (i.e. the wintering or the breeding area) by showing appropriately changed orientations. Juveniles showed appropriate directions when returning to the breeding grounds. In contrast, during their first southward migration displaced juveniles carried on in the direction (and possibly the distance) expected for their release at the Dutch capture site. From the mid‐1970s this work has become cited as evidence for starlings demonstrating ‘innate’ migratory directions. If the definition of innateness is ‘not learned by the individual itself’, then there is a range of non‐innate influences on development that are not ruled out by Perdeck's experimental outcomes. For example, young starlings might have carried on in the direction that they learned to migrate before being caught, e.g. by observing the migratory directions of experienced conspecifics. We argue that, despite over 60 citations to Perdeck as demonstrating innate migratory directions, the jury is out.
Piersma , T , Loonstra , A H J , Verhoeven , M A & Oudman , T 2020 , ' Rethinking classic starling displacement experiments : evidence for innate or for learned migratory directions? ' , Journal of Avian Biology , vol. 51 , no. 5 , e02337 . https://doi.org/10.1111/jav.02337
Journal of Avian Biology
Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Avian Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
DescriptionFunding for the present work came from the Spinoza Premium 2014 awarded to TP by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), with supplementary funding from an anonymous donor, the Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds and the Ubbo Emmius Fonds of the University of Groningen. TO was supported by Rubicon a grant from NWO (ref. 019.172EN.011)
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