Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Getting their own back on cuckoos: Australian fairy-wrens have the last laugh

19.03.2003


A team of scientists from Cambridge University and Bristol University, led by Dr Naomi Langmore of the Australian National University, has found that some Australian birds are one step ahead of their British counterparts in their ability to avoid being victimized by cuckoos.



Cuckoos exploit other bird species by laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. Soon after hatching, the cuckoo chick kills host young by tipping them out of the nest. The foster parents then work hard to rear the imposter in their nest, for which they gain no genetic reward.

Not surprisingly, host species go to great lengths to avoid being exploited. British hosts of the common cuckoo, such as reed warblers, are extremely good at spotting odd-looking eggs laid in their nest, which they quickly remove. In response, cuckoos have evolved mimetic eggs that closely resemble host eggs, and so have a higher chance of being unnoticed. However, despite their fine egg recognition skills, British hosts persist in feeding the cuckoo chick even though it looks utterly unlike their own young and can be six times bigger than the adults feeding it.


Now it seems that the superb fairy-wren, which is host to Australia’s Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, goes one better. The Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo lays such a mimetic egg that it is never spotted or removed by hosts. Within 48 hours of hatching, the cuckoo chick evicts host fairy-wren young from the nest. However, two days after that, roughly 40 % of host fairy-wren mothers have the last laugh. They abandon the nest, leaving the cuckoo chick to starve to death, while they renest. Cuckoo chicks are recognized partly because they are alone in the nest, and partly through their odd sounding begging calls.

"We don’t really know why these Australian hosts are so much better at deserting cuckoo chicks than their British equivalents", says Dr Rebecca Kilner, of Cambridge University’s Zoology Department. "One possibility is that the Australian breeding season is longer, meaning that birds have more to gain from abandoning a breeding attempt at such a late stage. Australian birds have plenty of time for renesting which simply isn’t available to the British hosts".
The research is published in the March 13th issue of Nature.

Laura Morgan | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nature.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>