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THE GREAT IMPOSTERSFinding good day care can certainly pose a problem these days unless ofcourse youre an African widow bird When it comes time for a female widowbird to lay her eggs she simply locates the nest of a nearby Estrildidfinch and surreptitiously drops the eggs inside Thats the last the widow bird ever sees of her offspring But not toworry because the Estrildid finch will take devoted care of the abandonedbirds as if they were her own And whos to tell the difference Though adult widow birds andEstrildid finches dont look at all alike their eggs do Not only thatbaby widow birds are dead ringers for Estrildid finch chicks both havingthe same colouration and markings They even act and sound the samethus ensuring that the widow bird nestlings can grow up among their aliennestmates with no risk of being rejected by their foster parents MASTERS OF DISGUISEThings arent always as they seem and nowhere is this more true thanin nature where dozens of animals and plants spend their timemasquerading as others So clever are their disguises that youveprobably never known you were being fooled by spiders impersonating antssquirrels that look like shrews worms copying sea anemones and roachesimitating ladybugs There are even animals that look like themselveswhich can also be a form of impersonation The phenomenon of mimicry as its called by biologists was firstnoted in the mid-1800s by an English naturalist Henry W Bates Watchingbutterflies in the forests of Brazil Bates discovered that many membersof the Peridae butterfly family did not look anything like their closestrelatives Instead they bore a striking resemblance to members of theHeliconiidae butterfly family Upon closer inspection Bates found that there was a major advantagein mimicking the Heliconiids Fragile slow-moving and brightly colouredthe Heliconiids are ideal targets for insectivorous birds Yet birdsnever touch them because they taste so bad Imagine that youre a delicious morsel of butterfly Wouldnt it
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