Visual acuity and egg spatial chromatic contrast predict egg rejection behavior of American robins

Alec B. Luro, Esteban Fernández-Juricic, Patrice Baumhardt, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Color and spatial vision is critical for recognition and discrimination tasks affecting fitness, including finding food and mates, and recognizing offspring. For example, as a counter defense to avoid the cost of raising the unrelated offspring of obligate interspecific avian brood parasites, many host species routinely view, recognize and remove the foreign egg(s) from their nests. Recent research has shown that host species visually attend to both chromatic and spatial pattern features of eggs; yet how hosts simultaneously integrate these features together when recognizing eggs remains an open question. Here, we tested egg rejection responses of American robins (Turdus migratorius) using a range of 3D-printed model eggs covered with blue and yellow checkered patterns differing in relative square sizes. We predicted that robins would reject a model egg if they could visually resolve the blue and yellow squares as separate features, or accept it if the squares blended together and appeared similar in color to the natural blue-green color of robin eggs as perceived by the avian visual system. As predicted, the probability of robins rejecting a model egg increased with greater sizes of its blue and yellow squares. Our results suggest that chromatic visual acuity and viewing distance have the potential to limit the ability of a bird to recognize a foreign egg in its nest, thus providing a limitation to host egg recognition that obligate interspecific avian brood parasites may exploit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
Volume223
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 18 2020

Keywords

  • Brood parasitism
  • Color vision
  • Egg recognition
  • Egg rejection
  • Spatial vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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