Baby Birds Evolve To Look Like Poisonous Caterpillars

cinereous mourner
 
The jungle is no place to raise your young, but animals don't have much of a choice. To prevent from being eaten, each animal has its own unique defense mechanism to stay out of harm's way. The cinereous mourner chick lives in a high-kill area, but lacks the ability to camouflage or fly, but they do have the special ability to hide in plain sight.
 
During an ecological study in the fall of 2012, researchers found a cinereous mourner nest in southeastern Peru (only the second such nest ever described) and noted that although the adults have smooth black feathers, the chicks are strangely covered in downy bright orange feathers tipped with black and white.
 
cinereous mourner
The chick puts its head down and wiggles around, perfectly mimicking a poisonous caterpillar
 
When the researchers took measurements and documentations of the nest, the tiny birds began to wiggle their heads slowly from side to side, just like a caterpillar. After further investigations, the scientists found a poisonous caterpillar in the area with similar coloring that made similar movements, and theorized that the tiny birds mimicked the poisonous caterpillars to discourage potential predators from eating them.
 
 
The orange caterpillar that the chicks mimick are 12 centimeters long, roughly the same size as one cinereous mourner baby. The fuzzy bug might look cute and cuddly with its seemingly luxurious, soft down, but you should refrain from trying to stroke it. The caterpillar's hairs contain a toxin that irritate the skin. The exact species has yet to be described but you can watch the furry bug move around and compare it to the movement of the baby chicks'.
 
 
The orange chicks' method of survival is an example of Batesian mimicry, a survival techique where a harmless animal has evolved to imitate a more threatening specis with which it shares a common predator. Batesian mimicry is often seen in insects, but rarely in vertebrates; it's the first time it has ever been found in birds. With such a remarkable hiding technique, it's no wonder they've stayed hidden for so long.
 
Information Source: Mental Floss
 

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