Cheating birds mimic host nestlings to deceive foster parents — ScienceDaily

The common cuckoo is known for its deceitful nesting behaviour — by laying eggs in the nests of other bird species, it fools host parents into rearing cuckoo chicks alongside their own. While common cuckoos mimic their host’s eggs, new research has revealed that a group of parasitic finch species in Africa have evolved to mimic their host’s chicks — and with astonishing accuracy. The study is published in the journal Evolution.

Working in the savannahs of Zambia, a team of international researchers collected images, sounds and videos over four years to reveal a striking and highly specialised form of mimicry. They focused on a group of finches occurring across much of Africa called the indigobirds and whydahs, of the genus Vidua.

Like cuckoos, the 19 different species within this group of finches forego their parental duties and instead lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Each

Read More

Researchers develop a human skin mimic to study mosquito biting in high resolution without using humans as ‘bait’ — ScienceDaily

Scientists have developed a tool for studying the biting behaviour of common pathogen-carrying mosquitoes, according to new research published this week in eLife.

The tool, which uses an artificial blood meal and a surface that mimics human skin, will provide detailed understanding of blood feeding without using human subjects as bait. It can also fit conveniently into a backpack, allowing the study of mosquitoes in laboratory and natural environments.

Blood feeding is essential for mosquitoes to reproduce, but it is during blood feeds on human hosts that they pass on pathogens such as malaria.

“Although the initial step in obtaining a blood meal — flying towards a host — is relatively well characterised, the steps that unfold after a mosquito has landed on a host are less well understood,” explains first author Felix Hol, a researcher at Institut Pasteur and the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris, France. “There

Read More