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 Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht 127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>