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How birds spot the cuckoo in the nest

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Geplaatst op 15 juli 2008 - 14:09

It's not always easy spotting the cuckoo in the nest. But if you don't, you pay a high price raising someone else's chick. How hosts distinguish impostor eggs from their own has long puzzled scientists. The problem remained largely unsolved while looking at it through our own eyes. It was only when people started thinking from the birds' perspective that they began to understand how hosts recognise a cuckoo egg in the nest. Marcel Honza from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic explains that birds see UV wavelengths that are well outside our own visual range. Knowing that many bird eggs reflect UV wavelengths, Honza wondered whether altering the reflected UV spectrum of an egg would affect a bird's ability to recognise it as foreign and reject it. Would a blackcap recognise and evict an impostor egg if the reflected UV spectrum were different from the wavelengths reflected by the bird's own clutch? Teaming up with Lenka PolačikovŠ, Honza headed into a near-by forest to test blackcap responses to impostor eggs and publish their findings on July 18th in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

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