Natural Selection? Well, Not Quite

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

Birds make choices in the same way as shoppers opt for certain products in supermarkets, according to new research by North academics.

The findings come from work on hummingbirds in the Canadian Rockies, which involved Newcastle University expert Dr Melissa Bateson.

Dr Bateson and colleagues used as their model a baked beans marketing experiment carried out on shoppers in a supermarket setting.

It showed that supermarkets could influence customers' choices through the range of options on offer.

A "decoy" brand was used - which was less attractive in terms of price, quality, size or value for money - and this would push shoppers into choosing the product the store wanted them to buy.

The same experiment was used on the hummingbirds - with mock flower beds taking the place of baked beans.

Dr Bateson, 35, a Royal Society research fellow in the evolution and behaviour group at Newcastle University's biology department, helped create the "flower bed" using several small feeding wells filled with "nectar" - or sucrose in varying volumes and levels of sweetness. …