Interesting new research seems to show that zebra finches are able to influence the size of their hatchlings by singing to them while they’re still in their eggs!
This article quotes “(t)he study in the journal Science examined a peculiar habit of zebra finches, which sing to their eggs particularly when the weather is hot—above 78 Fahrenheit (26 Celsius)—and the end of their incubation period is near.”
Artificially incubated eggs which were exposed to the very specific birdsong the zebra finches chirped at their eggs during warm weather hatched smaller baby birds, compared to eggs which were exposed only to ambient bird noises. According to the researchers, the wonders don’t end there. These smaller baby birds were later found to have produced more offspring than their more ordinarily sized counterparts.
Smaller hatching weight; more offspring down the road – these seem to represent very clear survival advantages which are apparently in response to warmer environmental conditions.
Researchers believe that the calls somehow affect the babies’ growth, since they are delivered in the last one-third of the incubation period when the hatchlings’ temperature and regulation system is starting to develop.
“By acoustically signaling high ambient temperatures to their embryos before hatching, zebra finch parents can program the developmental trajectories of their offspring,” said the study.
Frankly, I can think of no other word for this, except amazing. If the researchers’ conclusions are correct, then this adds a brand new survival mechanism to Mother Nature’s already impressive arsenal. And, from way off to the left field, I can say that this also opens up a premise for sci-fi writers (sorry, couldn’t help it). Less whimsically, but infinitely more sobering, if it is proven to be true that animals can actually communicate with unborn offspring on what appears to be a cellular level, effectively toggling genetic triggers on and off selectively from outside the womb – or egg – then this is definitive proof that the global warming threatens only us.
If we don’t act to address this problem now, therefore, we are nothing less than suicides waiting to happen.