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Gadagkar, R., 2020. More Fun Than Fun: The Marvelous World of Outsourcing Parenting Duties. The Wire Science.

Gadagkar, R (2020) Gadagkar, R., 2020. More Fun Than Fun: The Marvelous World of Outsourcing Parenting Duties. The Wire Science. In:

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The cuckoo has occupied a prominent place in the collective human imagination for thousands of years in many cultures. But perhaps the cuckoo is unique in that it has stirred our souls for two very different and conflicting reasons. We so admire the male cuckoo for his melodious voice that we have made the song of the cuckoo a metaphor for the sublime in music. It is the song that has conferred on the cuckoo the exalted title ‘harbinger of spring’. On the other hand, the cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite. It never builds its own nest and never cares for its own offspring. Instead, the female cuckoo lays eggs stealthily in the nests of other species and fools them into protecting and incubating her eggs and feeding her chicks – not in addition to, but instead of, their own. People have been so struck by this anomalous substitution of the familiar maternal care with shocking neglect of maternal duties that we have made ‘cuckold’ a metaphor for cheating. Evolutionary biologists have brought to bear their own brand of curiosity, both on the song of the male and the deception of the female cuckoo. Let’s explore the latter. The female cuckoo has exquisite adaptations for her act of deception. She carefully surveys the available host nests in her territory and keeps track of the progress of egg-laying by the hosts. After the hosts have begun to lay their own eggs and before they have completed laying their species-specific number of eggs, she flies over a host nest, removes and consumes one existing egg, and replaces it with one of her own – all in less than 10 seconds, compared to about 20 minutes that birds generally take to lay an egg.

Item Type: Editorials/Short Communications
Additional Information: The copyright of this article belongs to the Authors.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2021 09:39
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2022 07:08
URI: https://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/68419

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