A sweet tooth is a trait shared by many mammals, but the sweet receptor of birds was lost during evolution.
It is unclear how other birds perceive sweetness, despite the fact that hummingbirds and songbirds independently reprogrammed their savory receptor to perceive sweetness.
Woodpeckers have regained their sweet taste, according to new research by an international team led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence.
By making a small but unexpected change in the receptor, specialized ant-eating woodpeckers known as Vrinex were able to selectively reverse this advantage.
These findings shed light on how sensory mechanisms may change in response to the dietary needs of different species and reveal a new mechanism of sensory alternation.
According to ScienceDaily, part of the sweet receptor seen in mammals is absent in birds, the offspring of carnivorous dinosaurs.
As a result they should no longer be sensitive to sugar.
But according to recent research, both hummingbirds and songbirds have rediscovered their ability to taste sugar by adapting their savory receptor to detect carbs in fruit and nectar.
It is uncertain how other birds perceive carbohydrates and how closely the taste receptor responses reflect the birds’ vast dietary diversity.
Julia Kramer and Maude Baldwin of the Research Group Development of Sensory Systems and colleagues from various universities focused on woodpeckers to answer this question.
Although largely insectivorous, this group of birds also includes several species that consume fruits, juices and nectar that have high sugar content.
Baldwin’s team showed that woodpeckers prefer sugar and amino acids over water, using behavioral experiments on wild birds.
Unexpectedly, a species of woodpecker, whose diet consists almost entirely of ants, showed preferences for amino acids, but not for carbohydrates.
Baldwin summarized, “Our next question was whether the birds’ receptors reflected the observed sugar preference.
A sugar receptor was present in a common ancestor
According to Newsacheive.com, the taste buds of both the woodpecker and the corn have sugar-sensitive receptors, according to functional studies of taste buds.
It is interesting to note that ancestral reconstructions showed that the common ancestor of woodpeckers and woodpeckers already had a modified taste bud that could react to sugars.
According to Kramer, the study’s first author, the discovery establishes a third example of the autonomous development of sugar perception through taste receptor alterations in birds.
Even more interestingly, kon subsequently lost its ability to serve as a new receptor.
Unexpectedly, Kramer’s detailed examination of the distinctions between vermicole and woodpecker receptors revealed that a single amino acid change in the vermiform receptor turns off sugar sensitivity in a sugar-sensitive manner.
These findings show the evolution of sugar perception in woodpeckers, which may have increased early and then reversed when the torticollis receptor was subsequently altered.
This increase in the perception of sugar may have originated in an earlier ancestor, making it even older than the woodpecker itself.
Kramer said scientists were shocked to see that this reversal was brought about by a modification in only one amino acid, which acts as a molecular switch to control sugar sensitivity in the verticillian.
An unexpected consequence of this slight modification is that vertices are once again unable to detect sugar in their food, but they still have the ability for receptors to collect data regarding the presence of specific amino acids.
When ants make up the majority of your diet, it matters a lot.