Evolution of Eggs

By Anupum Pant

Eggs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Birds, a major group of creatures that descended from reptiles have, for several years, continued to evolve the design of their eggs for millions of years now (not consciously, through natural selection).

Eggs could have been cube shaped. In that case they would have been very difficult to lay. Also, they would have been weakest at the centre points of a face of the cube. Hence, eggs didn’t end up being squarish.

While most eggs have evolved to, well, an egg-shape, some eggs like those of some owls are nearly spherical in shape. But oval and pointy eggs do have an advantage of sort.

Spherical eggs tend to roll easily, and if laid somewhere near a cliff, they’d roll away, never to be seen ever again. Oval eggs normally tend to roll in circles. Usually, they roll in big circles. Still dangerous for birds who perch on cliffs most of the time.

Of all the eggs, the egg of a common guillemot bird is probably the most incredible – in the sense that it has a design that doesn’t let it roll down cliffs very easily.

Common guillemots are sea birds and they normally like to perch on cliffs. To add to the danger of their precarious perching places, they usually perch on such cliffs with a huge group. Also, they don’t even make nests.

Had their eggs been shaped like those of owls, they would have easily gotten knocked by someone from that huge group of perching birds, perching on precarious cliffs. So, their eggs have evolved to survive these conditions.

This is how their eggs look like. They are very awkwardly shaped. But when it rolls, thanks to natural selection, it rolls in very small circles! They don’t fall off cliffs easily. Wonderful!

common guillemot egg

First seen at [io9]

Australian Bird Makes Camera Shutter Sounds

By Anupum Pant

Until now I hadn’t even heard about, probably the most well-known bird of Australia, the Lyrebird. These birds are there on the 10 cents coins in Australia. Their feathers are beautiful, but what these birds can do is truly astonishing – The R2D2s of the real world.

The Lyrebird has been seen mimicking the sounds of at least twenty other birds. That’s not all. Some of these captive Lyrebirds have been seen mimicking sounds of human technology like a camera shutter, car alarm and a chainsaw too – as seen in the video below.

In 1969, as observed by an ornithologist in New England National Park, these birds were able to reproduce sounds of a flute, singing two famous songs of the 30s “The Keel Row” and “Mosquito’s Dance.”  They had learnt it from a farmer who used to play these tunes on a flute.

A word of caution

Although the video would lead you to believe that wild birds have started mimicking sounds of human technology, it isn’t totally true. The birds that has been shown in the video, in reality, are captive birds from Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and from the Adelaide Zoo. While Attenborough makes it seem like the bird is mimicking “sounds of the forest”. these clips are not typically what these wild birds do in the wild.

Maybe it happens in the wild too, but it’s highly unlikely because the human technology sounds are usually lost amidst the forest sounds. Moreover, never in the past has there been a recording of this bird mimicking human technology sounds in the wild. Maybe they do, but science requires evidence.

Tiger Fish Jumps Out of Water and Catches Flying Birds

By Anupum Pant

It is normal for birds to swoop down and catch fish from water. But, since 1940s, stories about a meter-long-demonic-African-fish leaping out of water to catch birds in mid-air have been told. They were only stories; no one had seen the actual occurrence…Until now.

Recently, a video of it happening was captured by a team of researchers from North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and was posted on YouTube. As expected, the video went viral. Who wouldn’t love watching a fish-eating a bird! I put it on repeat and must have watched it 10 times already.

In the video you see a Tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus – literally means a ‘spotted water dog’) that lives in African fresh waters. It is one of the largest predators there and lives with a larger cousin, the Giant Tiger fish (Hydrocynus goliath). The Tiger fish can measure as much as 1 meter in length. On the other hand, giant tiger fish (not seen here) can reach up to 1.5 meters in length.

Taking shots around the South African lake in the Mapungubwe National Park, they were not really expecting to record a video in which a fish would fly out of the water and catch a swallow. Rather they were there to study migration and habitat at the lake. The team was surprised to see this. The director said:

“The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen.”

Given that a fish in water, or even human beings for that matter, cannot see beyond a specific window (The Underwater Optical Man-hole), this fish does an amazing job of tracking and striking a bird in mid-flight with so much precision. Cheers for that Mr. Tiger Fish.

Agreed the video isn’t clear, but it the first of its kind. Soon, I hope, we’ll see HD, NatGeo quality videos. Watch it on video here: [Video]