Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

Plymouth University,
PL4 8AT,
United Kingdom
Organiser: Plymouth University


Wednesday 9 March 2016

Cuckoo Cheating

The sight of a little pipit or warbler feeding an enormous cuckoo chick has astonished observers for centuries. It was once thought that defective anatomy and behaviour meant that cuckoos could not raise their own young, so other birds were delighted to help. This quaint view was overturned by Darwin, who suggested that the cuckoo’s parasitic habit was advantageous and that the hosts were tricked. This lecture shows how field experiments reveal a continuing evolutionary battle, in which escalating host defences have selected for remarkable cuckoo trickery, including: different guises in female cuckoos, forgeries of host eggs and manipulative begging by cuckoo chicks. Nick Davies is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

This meeting is free and open to all. Image @ C. R. Tyler.