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The evolution of the colours and patterns of cuckoos' eggs and its relation to that of insect resemblances, such as mimicry


The evolution of the colours and patterns of cuckoos' eggs and its relation to that of insect resemblances, such as mimicry



TRANS ENT SOC LONDON 1925(5): xcvi-cix



As an explanation for the resemblance in coloration of the eggs of cuckoos and the birds that they victimize, the theory of selective destruction, by the victim, of those eggs less like its own is supported. The evolution of the more complex patterns is emphasized as the best argument and is parallel to mimetic coloration among insects. Size is less potent than other characteristics, and since size varies in both parasite and victim the question becomes of less importance. Striking examples in far-ranging species victimizing several different species within their range follow the same laws as butterfly mimicry under similar conditions of distribution. Inhibiting instincts do not interfere with rigorous ejection of noticeably different eggs, and the superior intelligence of such birds as the crows and pies have enforced an amazing degree of mimicry in both eggs and nestlings. Discrepancy in coloration of the eggs of parasite and victim is explained as an attempt by the parasitic species to establish itself on a new victim, the period of selection not yet being complete. Other variations are due to the overlapping of communities, thus preventing the maintenance of pure color strains. Rigorous selection has therefore resulted in color mimicry on the part of cuckoo eggs similar to mimicry among insects.

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