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Moorhens have an internal representation of their own eggs

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Marion Petrie


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How do birds recognize their own eggs? Do they have a stored template for their own egg characteristics, or do they use another mechanism? Intraspecific brood parasitism is considered to be an additional reproductive tactic where females can increase their own reproductive success. Because of the costs involved in rearing young that are not their own, it will pay females to detect and reject the eggs of a parasite, although it is not known how they do this. Here, we show experimentally that moorhens will cease laying in a nest when their first egg is replaced with another hen's egg but not when it is replaced with their own egg taken from an earlier clutch. This provides good evidence that birds have an internal representation of their own eggs and use this in decisions about whether to reject foreign eggs. © 2008 Springer-Verlag.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Petrie M, Pinxten R, Eens M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Naturwissenschaften

Year: 2009

Volume: 96

Issue: 3

Pages: 405-407

ISSN (print): 0028-1042

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1904

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00114-008-0486-5


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