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Sleep Deprived Male Pectoral Sandpipers More Active

Aug 10, 2012 07:07 AM EDT

A new study suggests that the male pectoral sandpipers that are sleep deprived get more offspring.

Researchers led by Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen have found that male pectoral sandpipers that are active and sleep less are successful in breeding more chicks.

Male pectoral sandpipers indulge in polygamy where one male mates with several females. During the three-week breeding season in the Arctic tundra, where the sun never sets, the males fight other males and convince the females to get their attention for mating.

The birds require a lot of energy for this and the most active birds sleep very less to spend more time in interacting with the females.

For their study, researchers connected transmitters to the birds to analyze their brain and muscle activity. They found that the active birds were awake, while the inactive birds were asleep. They also tested the DNA patterns of all birds including the males, females and the offspring. They noticed that the most active birds had more offspring than the inactive ones.

Experts noticed another pattern among the birds using the brain activity recordings. The male birds that slept less had the deepest sleep. What's more, the sleep loss did not have any adverse effect on the survival of the males. The birds with more babies returned to the breeding grounds more often than the birds with fewer chicks.  

The finding counters the general notion that sleep deprivation can reduce cognitive ability and affect one's performance. Regular sleep is needed for the body to function well in both humans and animals. But the current study sheds light on how sleep loss makes the birds active and enjoy great reproductive success compared to the inactive birds.

The finding suggests that some males may evolve the ability to postpone large amount of sleep under certain situations, while maintianing high neurobehavioral performance.

However, it is unclear why all the birds do not engage in the same behavior. One possible reason that Kempenaers suggests, "Long sleeping males may lack genetic traits that enable short sleeping individuals to maintain high performance despite a lack of sleep."

The researchers said that further study needs to be done to determine the reasons behind male birds' nature of adapting to sleeplessness.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Nature.

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