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The dangers of misimprinting

Imprinting is an irreversible sort of learning that is commonly seen between nestlings and their mothers. Mallard drakes will take this farther, choosing to mate with females that resemble their mother when they become of breeding age (Kruijt et al. 1982). Problems may arise even in such situations, such as imprinting on the incorrect organism. If a mallard drake imprinted on a different species of female, he would be unable to produce offspring later on. Similarly, imprinting can be a harmful strategy for birds that imprint on their own eggs since there is always the chance of misimprinting , or falsely recognizing parasitic eggs as own.

Imprinting as a defense has different implications due to the different strategies adopted by the common cuckoo and brown-headed cowbird. Strausberger and Rothstein (2009) investigated the frequency at which parasitic species took advantage of imprinting by parasitizing early on before naïve birds had learned the appearance of their own eggs. Both the gray catbird ( Dumetella carolinensis ) and brown thrasher ( Toxostoma rufum ) accepted more parasitic cowbird eggs when the eggs were placed early in laying or incubation stages in areas where cowbirds were more abundant, which would also increase the frequency at which naïve birds are parasitized, suggesting that hosts were induced to misimprint. However, misimprinting increasing with parasite frequency is not observed in cuckoo hosts. Since cuckoos are host-specific rather than generalistic like cowbirds, their eggs more closely resemble host eggs and therefore select for finer tuning of recognition and rejection behavior rather than a short period of imprinting. Many cowbird eggs, on the other hand, do not resemble host eggs at all, so a short period of imprinting is sufficient to distinguish between one’s own eggs and parasitic eggs (See [link] ).

eggs in a nest.
Brown-headed cowbird egg in a phoebe ( Sayornis phoebe ) nest.
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Genetic and environmental components to learning

While it is assumed that recognition behavior among hosts of brood parasites is related to genes, there is evidence that recognition has both a genetic and a learning component. Soler et al. (1999) performed a study on magpie rejection rates of cuckoo eggs and found evidence for flow of genes regulating rejection behavior between populations. Magpies living in areas where they were not parasitized by cuckoos were still able to reject cuckoo eggs, suggesting that there is some innate genetic component to host recognition that did not rely on previous exposure to selection by parasitism. However, the rejection of mimetic eggs was found to be strongly correlated with the geographic component, which would result from exposure to selective pressures. The authors concluded that while all magpies with genes for recognizing eggs could reject nonmimetic eggs, a learning process for fine-tuning was needed to explain the ability for magpies to reject mimetic eggs.

Not all egg rejection is explainable by learning

While authors have found evidence that experience affects the ability of host birds to reject eggs, there are other systems where learning is not a sufficient explanation for how birds reject eggs. Amundsen et al. dispute the finding that breeder age affects egg rejection rates in another species, the bluethroat ( Luscinia svecica ). Through egg replacement and return experiments, no evidence was found suggesting that that age of breeder played any role in egg rejection rates (2002). Instead, the authors postulated that differences in acceptance or rejection are better explained by the evolutionary lag hypothesis rather than learning. This hypothesis states that rejection is adaptive but the behavior may not yet have spread to all members of the species, which is why some will still accept parasitic eggs. Although learning may be a method that some species use to defend against parasitism, it is certainly not the only explanation for differences among individuals within a species.

Questions & Answers

Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
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Daniel
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Maciej
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Abigail
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Anassong
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
NANO
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Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
s.
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
Tarell
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
Damian
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
Tarell
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
Virgil
is Bucky paper clear?
CYNTHIA
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
NANO
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Harper
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
s.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
SUYASH Reply
for screen printed electrodes ?
SUYASH
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
Ebrahim
or in general
Ebrahim
in general
s.
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
tahir
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
Cied
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Cied
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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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