Sandpiper sacrifices sleep for sex, says study
IF YOU snooze you lose, at least if you are a male sandpiper. You meet more females and mate more often if you are willing to keep sleep to a minimum.
Things can get pretty competitive during the Arctic summer when male pectoral sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) battle it out for access to females.
And while in most circumstances sleep deprivation is a bad idea, the strategy of staying awake longer pays dividends for the male sandpiper, who wants to father more offspring.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology studied mating and brain activity in Alaskan male and female sandpipers during the frantic few weeks, when mating takes place under the constant daylight of the Arctic summer. They published their findings online yesterday in Science Express.
Males court females but also have to fight to keep potential competitors out of the way. Some males though take the short road to success by taking the long road in getting there. The researchers used a combination of tags that monitored movement, male and female interactions and both muscle and brain activity to keep tabs on how courtships progressed.
They also used DNA paternity testing to track the winners and losers in the battle for mates.
They quickly found that males willing to forgo sleep or take less of it were the more successful suitors, mating more often and producing more offspring.
This group also pursued the avian equivalent of the “power nap”. Brain activity monitoring showed these birds slept less but the sleep they took was deeper.
The finding runs counter to the long-established assumption that sleep deprivation is universally a bad thing, the researchers note.
The sandpiper under study is not a native nor does it overwinter here, according to Birdwatch Ireland. There are occasional sightings of the bird, off course on its way to warmer climes in South America.