Australian fairy-wrens more likely to help family in distress than strangers: study

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CANBERRA, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Superb fairy-wrens are more likely to risk their own safety to help their close social circle, an Australian study has found.

According to the study, which was published by Australian National University (ANU) and Monash University on Friday, superb fairy-wrens can identify the individual voices of their breeding groups and are more likely to help a member of their social circle in distress than a stranger - just like human hunter-gatherers.

The team tested their finding by broadcasting calls from birds with different relationships to the wrens - including kookaburras, their natural predator.

They found that the wrens went into danger to offer help to individuals from their breeding group but did not offer help for unknown calls.

"Distress calls are a cry for help when birds are attacked by a predator," Robert Magrath, co-author of the study from ANU, said in a media release.

"We found superb fairy-wrens are careful about who they aid. They'll risk life and limb for birds from the same breeding group, but are more careful when helping casual acquaintances," he said. "As for strangers, amazingly, they completely ignored the cries for help."

The superb fairy-wren is native to south-east Australia, growing to approximately 14 centimeters in length.

Friday's study, published in the journal Current Biology, was the first to examine the decision-making process of animals in a multilevel society.

"Core breeding units give individuals access to high value help when needed, whereas the broader society of familiar birds give wrens the power in numbers when facing predators," co-author Damien Farine said.

"Exploring patterns of cooperation can help us understand the benefits of living in multilevel societies," he said. Enditem

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