Female zebra finches can ‘smell a rat’ in their nests

Who knew birds could have a finely tuned sense of smell? Researchers at Bielefeld University discovered that female zebra finches rely on olfactory cues to recognize their own eggs. When given a choice between the scent of their own and a foreign egg, Barbara Caspers and her team found that female zebra finches recognized and preferred the odor of their own. Interestingly, this preference was only seen just before hatching but not during the start of incubation, suggesting that zebra finch eggs develop different chemical fingerprints.

These mechanisms of recognizing imposter eggs evolved in response to brood parasitism, a very common behavior among birds. Many bird species lay their eggs in another’s nest, pawning off the task of rearing their young to foster parents. This can be costly for the unsuspecting birds and at times even fatal. Perhaps the most famous example is the Cuckoo bird which lays its eggs in another species’ nest. The parasitic hatchling then pushes the other eggs out of the nest, leaving the host parents no choice but to keep up with the comically large cuckoo chick and its even larger appetite.

Most of the published research on brood parasitism addresses how birds use visual cues to recognize different eggs, but in some cases relying on vision alone is not enough. Zebra finches live in dense breeding colonies where brood parasitism is a regular occurrence. These birds lay identical eggs without patterns in dark domed nests, making visual discrimination difficult.

This study is one of the few to prove that some birds rely only on their sense of smell to weed out imposter eggs, but many questions remain unanswered. Caspers and her team can only speculate as to how and when an egg’s chemical fingerprint forms and what the zebra finch does once the imposter egg in the nest is recognized.


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Holy Roman Empire: Champions League Group Stage

In anticipation of the clash between the two sides that garner the most support from meChelsea and LeverkusenI will be discussing Chelsea’s current form and the tactics anticipated ahead of their upcoming CL group stage game.

Bayer at the Bridge

Back in 2002, Bayer Leverkusen disposed of 3 of the premier league’s regular top 4 clubs in their amazing run to the finalArsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United. It is now 2011 and this time around, Leverkusen faces the Blues for the first time in their history. This is also a special occasion to mark, as Michael Ballack makes his way back to the Bridge in their first match-up.

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Bayer Leverkusen 101

There is a completely new section in my blog dedicated to the history of Bayer Leverkusen over three decades in the 1.Bundesliga. Check out the Die Werkself tab for all sorts of information on who/what/where and why Bayer Leverkusen is.

Currently, only the 80’s section is up, but soon enough the 90’s, 2000’s and most recent season will be up as well. League standings, squads, top scorers, interviews, and significant events (which Bayer has 2 or 3 of those) are all covered under each decade.

So for now, take a walk down the 80’s and read up on Bayer’s 1988 UEFA Cup win and how it came to be. A recap of the exciting final with videos of the goals, penalty shoot-out, and celebration.

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Two Games, Two Formations, One Opponent–Part 2

In the return leg, Heynckes went with a 4-4-2 formation against the Yellow Submarines. Leverkusen needed at least 2 goals with none conceded in order to progress to the quarter finals. The first part looked at how Leverkusen executed the 4-2-3-1 against Villareal.

4-4-2 Away: Villareal 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

This game was not as fast paced and offensively skewed as the 1st leg. Leverkusen did not control the possession this time, instead it evened out between the two sides.

Shots: Leverkusen 14 (7 on goal) to Villareal’s 5 (3 on goal).

Offsides: Leverkusen 1Villareal 4

Heynckes opted for more stability in the 2nd leg, choosing a 4-4-2 to give Leverkusen a more stable midfield. Normally, the 4-4-2 formation is strong in both defense and offense, with the midfielders able to assist the attack during offense and assist the defenders during defense. This is due to the fact that players can easily cover for each other. A 4-4-2 formation could have greatly assisted Leverkusen during this match but it did not, because the players somehow did not fit the formation.
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Germany 1-2 Australia: A Tale of Two Halves

Löw fielded a pretty inexperienced group of youngsters, and the result was to be more or less expected. The first half drew good performances from the young Germans, and the Australians left them to take hold of most of the possession. The only goal of the 1st half came from a wonderful play by the box, an assist from Schürrle and a right on the dot goal from Gomez. The second half saw a reversal of fortunes, as Germany became more complacent and a defensive mistake cost them the first goal. And then a ‘soft’ penalty was called for Australia soon after, tipping the scale towards the Australians.

Starting XI: Wiese – Träsch, Hummels, Friedrich, Schmelzer – Bender, Schweinsteiger (64′ Kroos)- Schürrle, Müller (64′ Götze), Podolski – Gomez (Klose)

The most important thing about this match was testing the new players and seeing who deserves to say and who needs to go, so thank god for friendlies: the only way to test out partnerships, formations and new prospects. Hopefully, Löw will start fixing the squad accordingly (hopefully). The score does not matter during games like these.

  • I was unconvinced by the inclusion of Träsch, but as soon as the whistle blew, he definitely convinced. Good defending, and a great link up between Schürrle and Bender. Held on to the ball very well during defense and when he ran up the flanks or cut inside.
  • A PodolskiSchmelzer parternship is like trying to mix water and oil; PodolskiAogo is much better. We know Löw is stubborn when it comes to Podolski, and it’s upsetting to see that Schmelzer may not get playing time or that when he does he will not give the performances he does for his club.
  • Schürrle was superb. Wonderful runs, backtracked to defend, and definitely made an impact. He was all over the fielddefending and attacking. Can’t wait to see him play for Leverkusen next season.
  • Götze definitely deserves a spot on the NT. Made an impact as soon as he was subbed on at the 64′ minute mark.
  • No matter how many times Gomez may score, he is more of a burden than anything. He topples over way too easily, and again: too awkward with the ball. Football calls for a more modern striker nowadays who can play the role of both the traditional #9 and #11waiting for the ball to land at his feet and score, while also playing in and around the penalty box/defenders. Hes good at one role, terrible at the other.
  • Löw needs to cement Hummels as CB. Even though the 1st goal from Australia resulted from a mistake he made, but nobody is infallible. Träsch couldn’t stop Carney, whose run drew Hummels towards him leaving a huge gap for the australian to score from. But other than that, top class marking skills. And he also has a commanding role in the back line, which adds to the importance of his inclusion. I would love to see him play as a liberoif that position ever awakened from the dead.
  • Podolski should start on the bench because that was an abysmal performance. Mis-communications with Gomez, off the mark passes and crosses, and below average defending. Schürrle should start as LW instead.
  • Muller, while not as slick as Özil’s playmaking, did not disappoint, and was linking up the play well. Although there were a few hiccups; losing possession during one counterattack and one time where I felt he could’ve made the better decision. Bender was running ahead and on the right was an open space, but instead of giving Bender the ball to play, Muller passed it to Schürrle who was already marked by a defender.
  • Wiese really needs to work on his distributions. Really.
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Germany–Kazakhstan: Player Reviews

Right before the match, the starting XI and the bench left us all scratching our heads and wondering what in the world was Jogi Löw smoking. Hummels and Schmelzer were not even on the bench. 5 minutes into the game and I thought that perhaps Löw left them out because he wanted to see them actually tested in the Australia game against much better opponents than Kazakhastan.

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Two games, two formations, one opponent. Part 1

Leverkusen has switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation this season, a change from the dominant 4-2-2-2 of last season and the beginning of this season. I do believe that after the 3:6 thrashing by Mönchengladbach followed by two consecutive ties with Hannover and Nürnberg, Jupp decided to go with a different tactic and changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1.  A look at the two games against Villareal in the Europa League where two formations were utilized, and how they greatly affected the play. I chose two recent games, and luckily, two different formations were used against the same opponent.
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