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Highlights from the latest issue

October 2021 | Vol. 163, issue 4
We’re pleased to deliver another packed issue containing two review papers, 17 full papers, six short communications, three Forum articles and our regular book reviews.

Here, Editor in Chief, Dominic McCafferty, has selected four of his highlights.

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    A global synthesis of the impacts of urbanization on bird dawn choruses
    Oscar H. Marín-Gómez and Ian MacGregor-Fors
    Anthropogenic noise and light pollution are some of the main urban factors influencing the timing and structure of avian song. Oscar Marín-Gómez and Ian MacGregor-Fors provide a comprehensive review of avian dawn choruses in urban settings across the world. One of the most important knowledge gaps they identified was the need to determine if the function of dawn choruses of birds in urban areas differ from their non-urban counterparts. They also show that the majority of studies are from Holarctic cities and towns, and therefore research in tropical and subtropical regions are a priority to fully understand this global issue.
    Baked eggs: catastrophic heatwave-induced reproductive failure in the desert-adapted Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)
    Luke S. C. McCowan and Simon C. Griffith
    With a changing climate, heatwaves are increasing in frequency and severity. During incubation, parents must regulate clutch temperature for optimal development and to avoid embryo mortality. In this study, Luke McCowan and Simon Griffith examined the effects of a heatwave on a population of wild Zebra Finches. Ninety five percent of clutches failed, and no embryo survived a cumulative exposure of 20 hours or more at 40.5 °C. Incredibly, some embryos managed to survive hotter temperatures but for shorter periods. McCowan and Griffith conclude that even in a species that is well adapted to a hot and unpredictable environment, heatwaves cause catastrophic effects on avian reproduction.
    Read more from the lead author on #theBOUblog View
    Mitochondrial substitution rates estimation for divergence time analyses in modern birds based on full mitochondrial genomes
    Angel Arcones, Raquel Ponti and David R. Vieites
    Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is an important resource for the study of evolutionary processes in birds, especially to infer divergence times between lineages. Due to the scarcity of fossils, dating is most accurate when mtDNA substitution rates are taxa-specific. In this ground-breaking study, Angel Arcones, Raquel Ponti and David R. Vieites performed the most comprehensive calibration of the mtDNA molecular clock in birds, using complete mitochondrial genomes for 622 species and with 25 fossil calibrations. They found variation in rates both among lineages and markers, indicating the absence of a standard molecular clock. In this way, Arcones et al. provide a very valuable tool for future molecular clock analyses in the absence of fossil calibrations.
    Towards redressing inaccurate, offensive and inappropriate common bird names
    Robert J. Driver and Alexander L. Bond
    In ornithology, English common names are widely used and many of these names originate from past European perspectives. In this thought-provoking Forum article Robert Driver and Alexander Bond highlight efforts by ornithological societies around the world to change common bird names to better reflect human perspectives in the 21st century. They discuss a number of case studies from regions with a history of colonialism, including South Africa and North America, and highlight the successful implementation of Indigenous bird names in New Zealand. Driver and Bond argue strongly that the continued use of problematic common names must change to create a more diverse and inclusive discipline.
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Image credits
From top:
Figure | from paper
Jacky Winter nest with eggs | © Belinda Cale
Figure | from paper
McCowan’s Longspur | Richard Crossley CC BY SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons