Questions for ‘When parenting goes cuckoo’


Brood parasites leave their young with another animal who acts as a “foster parent.” Here, the foster parent is a cape robin-chat (right). It is feeding an enormous chick of another species, a red-chested cuckoo (left).

Alandmanson/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

To accompany feature “When parenting goes cuckoo”


Before Reading: 

1.  Some animals play a very active role in raising their young. Others do nothing beyond laying eggs. What is one advantage and one disadvantage of each of these two approaches?

2.  If you could trick someone in your life into taking on one of your responsibilities, what would you pick and how would you do it? Who would you give that responsibility to?

During Reading: 

1.  How does a young common cuckoo avoid sharing food with other young birds?   

2.  What is a brood parasite?

3.  What are three species of brood parasites described in the article?

4.  How do brood parasites benefit from finding hosts?

5.  Why might some hosts accept brood parasite eggs?  

6.  What characteristic of eggs do robins seem to use to decide whether to accept them, based on research by Mark Hauber and his colleagues?    

7.  What difference did Martin Reichard and his colleagues identify between cichlids from Lake Tanganyika and cichlids from other African lakes?

8.  What defense do some mouthbrooding cichlids use against parasitism by cuckoo catfish?

9.  What unusual thing did Daniela Canestrari and her colleagues notice about parasitized carrion crow nests?

10.  What are two ways that brood parasites can harm their hosts’ young? What is one way that brood parasites can help their hosts’ young, as described in the article?

After Reading: 

1.  Why might it be advantageous for a brood parasite to help its host?

2.  Imagine you joined Martin Reichard’s research team to try to learn how a female cichlid knows to spit out catfish eggs. Think of a possible way the cichlid might now how to do so, then briefly describe an experiment you would do to test your hypothesis.