Quirks & Quarks

Birds with smaller brains more likely to be shot by hunters

Researchers analyze the brains of birds brought in for taxidermy.

Here we are - mid-November. And for some Canadians, that means one thing: hunting season! That's when hunters dig out their hunting duds and head into the woods.

And when it comes to hunting birds, new research shows that the birds hunters shoot tend to have smaller brains than the ones that get away.

Dr. Anders Møller from Université Paris-Sud hypothesized that birds that got away from hunters had larger brains and a superior escape ability. They used a large dataset of thousands of birds from a Danish taxidermist who had methodically measured the size of their brains and other organs, as well as their cause of death. While they statistically controlled for body weight, body condition, sex, and age, he found that birds that were shot consistently had smaller brains, relative to their body size than those that died of other causes.

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