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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 437–439 | Cite as

‘Anting’ as food preparation: formic acid is worse on an empty stomach

  • Olivia P. Judson
  • Andrew T. D. Bennett
Article

Summary

Anting is a behavior common among passerine birds, yet its function is unknown. The behavior consists of a highly stereotyped set of movements which start when a bird picks up an ant, usually one which sprays formic acid as a defense, and sweeps it with frenzied motions through its feathers. The bird will often also eat the ant. As formic acid is toxic, we have tested the food-preparation hypothesis, that is, that the birds are anting to remove a distasteful or toxic substance from the ant before eating it. In a pair of experiments on starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, we have found evidence in support of this hypothesis.

Keywords

Formic Acid Toxic Substance Food Preparation Empty Stomach Passerine Bird 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivia P. Judson
    • 1
  • Andrew T. D. Bennett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyEdward Grey Institute of Field OrnithologyOxfordUK

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