Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oology advance

Scientists have known for centuries that cuckoos and other brood parasites plant their eggs in the nests of other birds so that the duped foster parents will raise them, usually at the expense of their own chicks. But now – with the help of software used for facial recognition and image stitching – they have determined one way that bird parents keep an eye on their own eggs. Researchers at Harvard and the University of Cambridge applied the technology to hundreds of eggs of 8 different parasitized bird species. Using the new program they call NaturePatternMatch, they determined that the patterns on the hosts' eggs contain special visual cues that allow their parents to identify them. And the more intensely the species is targeted, the more complex and sophisticated their egg signatures are. The scientist write in a statement, "The astonishing finding here is that hosts can fight back against cuckoo mimicry by evolving highly recognizable patterns on their own eggs, just like a bank might insert watermarks on its currency to deter counterfeiters."

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