Birds evolve ‘signature’ patterns to distinguish cuckoo eggs from their own
For some birds, recognising their own eggs can be a matter of life or death. In a new study, scientists have shown that many birds affected by the parasitic Common Cuckoo - which lays its lethal offspring in other birds’ nests - have evolved distinctive patterns on their eggs in order to distinguish them from those laid by a cuckoo cheat.
The study reveals that these signature patterns provide a powerful defense against cuckoo trickery, helping host birds to reject cuckoo eggs before they hatch and destroy the host’s own brood.
To determine how a bird brain might perceive and recognize complex pattern information, Dr Mary Caswell Stoddard at Harvard University and Professor Rebecca Kilner and Dr Christopher Town at the University of Cambridge developed a new computer vision tool, NATUREPATTERNMATCH. The tool extracts and compares recognizable features in visual scenes, recreating processes known to be important for recognition tasks in vertebrates…
(read more: PhysOrg)
photos: David Kjaer (left) and Mary Caswell Stoddard/Natural History Museum, UK (centre, right)