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You snooze, you lose: adaptive sleep loss in polygynous pectoral sandpipers

You snooze, you lose: adaptive sleep loss in polygynous pectoral sandpipers
John A. Lesku

Authors

John A. Lesku
La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Niels C. Rattenborg
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany

Mihai Valcu
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany

Alexei L. Vyssotski
University of Zurich / ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Sylvia Kuhn
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany

Franz Kuemmeth
e-obs Digital Telemetry, Munich, Germany

Wolfgang Heidrich
e-obs Digital Telemetry, Munich, Germany

Bart Kempenaers
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany

Abstract

Sleep performs restorative processes that sustain waking brain function. However, we recently provided the first direct evidence that sleep loss can be adaptive. Pectoral sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) migrate annually to above the Arctic Circle to breed in the summer under continuous daylight. Males are polygynous and engage in intense male-male competition for access to fertile females during a 3-week period. In a multi-year study, we measured (i) activity levels in males, (ii) electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in free-roaming males on the tundra to determine whether inactive males were sleeping or simply sitting quietly awake, (iii) the number of male-female interactions, and (iv) the parentage of virtually all chicks on the study site. Overall, activity levels varied considerably across males, and some males were active >95% of the time for a period lasting up to 19 d. Birds rapidly transitioned from active wakefulness to sleep, such that activity is a good proxy for wakefulness in these animals. Not only did some males sleep very little, but the sleep obtained was heavily fragmented into hundreds of short micronaps. Most importantly, males that slept the least interacted with more females and sired the most offspring. Thus, males that slept less performed better on the most important measure of performance from an evolutionary perspective. These results provide the first evidence that reduced performance is not an evolutionarily inescapable outcome of sleep loss.

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Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

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This page was last modified on 24 September 2013.