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 In depression the brain region for stress control is larger
20.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Interfacial engineering core@shell nanoparticles for active and selective direct H2O2 generation
19.09.2018 | Science China Press

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Warning against hubris in CO2 removal

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Halfway mark for NOEMA, the super-telescope under construction

20.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>