Baby Birds Mimic Toxic Caterpillars to Fool Predators

baby birds fool predatorsAnimals adapt in various ways to protect themselves from predators. Some take on the smell of the food they consume, while others build decoys. But very few are able to do what the cinereous mourner that resides in the Peruvian Amazon rainforests has done. This dull gray bird has evolved such that its chicks not only closely resemble a brightly colored toxic neighbor, but also act like it!

Scientists have long speculated that the gorgeous color was probably the reason the chicks were largely ignored by predators like snakes and monkeys. They were just not sure why it worked. A 1982 study suggested that it was because the fluffy orange chicks resembled a moss covered fruit that was not particularly desired by the animals. In 2012, another report proposed that the fuzz contained toxic chemicals or that the chicks may be mimicking an unknown animal that was harmful. However, it was difficult to confirm any of the theories since they were all made from the observation of two museum specimens.

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