Australian scientists have observed how a local bird species, the superb maluro either australian blue mouse, he takes risks to help members of his closest social circle, in the style of human hunter-gatherers.
“Both species live in multilevel societies, starting with a core group of a few closely connected individuals,” explains Ettore Camerlenghi, a PhD student at Monash University and lead author of the paper, which focused on Malurus cyaneusa species of passerine bird known as superb maluro either australian blue mouse.
“We found that these birds, like hunter-gatherers, have three distinct types of relationships: those in the same breeding group, known individuals in the same community, and unknown birds in the broader population.”
the research team tested the disposition of the birds to help others issuing distress calls from individuals with different social relationships.
“Distress calls are a cry for help when birds are attacked by a predator“, explains study co-author Professor Robert Magrath, from the ANU School of Biology.
The emission of these calls allowed us to check to what extent the birds were willing to help to others who needed it.”
They are very careful when it comes to helping. They risk their lives for the birds of their own breeding group, but are more careful when helping casual acquaintances. As for the strangers, surprisingly, they completely ignored the cries for help.
“We found that they are very careful when it comes to helping. They risk their lives for birds in their own breeding group, but they are more careful when helping casual acquaintances. As for strangers, surprisingly, they completely ignored cries for help. “.
Decision making of animals living in a multilevel society
The study is the first to examine the decision-making process of animals living in a multilevel society.
“just like humansdifferent social levels seem to have different functions,” says Associate Professor Damien Farine, co-author from ANU and the University of Zurich.
“Central breeding units give individuals access to valuable help when they need it, while the broader society of family birds gives wrens the power in numbers when facing predators. Exploring patterns of cooperation can help us understand the benefits of living in multilevel societies“.
The findings have been published in Current Biology (1).
- (1) Multilevel social structure predicts individual help responses in a songbird. Current Biology.