The common cuckoo is known for its deceitful nesting behaviour — by laying eggs in the nests of other bird species, it fools host parents into rearing cuckoo chicks alongside their own. While common cuckoos mimic their host’s eggs, new research has revealed that a group of parasitic finch species in Africa have evolved to mimic their host’s chicks — and with astonishing accuracy. The study is published in the journal Evolution.
Working in the savannahs of Zambia, a team of international researchers collected images, sounds and videos over four years to reveal a striking and highly specialised form of mimicry. They focused on a group of finches occurring across much of Africa called the indigobirds and whydahs, of the genus Vidua.
Like cuckoos, the 19 different species within this group of finches forego their parental duties and instead lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Each
Viral and bacterial pathogens wield pathogenic or virulent proteins that interact with high-value targets inside human cells, attacking what is known as the host interactome. The host interactome is the network map of all the protein-protein interactions inside cells.
Such networks have been studied in organisms as diverse as plants, humans and roundworms, and they show a similarity to social networks like Facebook or airline route maps. In Facebook, a few people will have a huge number of friend connections, some will have many, and a vast majority will have much fewer. Similarly, airlines have a few hubs that many passengers pass through on the way to their destinations.
Host interactomes show a limited number of high-powered hubs — where a protein has a large number of connections — and a limited number of important bottlenecks, which are sites with a large number of short paths to a node. These