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