Whilst there are many (~150) species of cuckoo, it sounds like in the UK there's only 1 (Cuculus canorus). However, this 1 species specialises depending on their host species/environment; e.g. their eggs look like one of their four different host species (dunnock, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, and reed warbler).

I'm led to believe that the cuckoo will use the same host species as their parents, as their eggs have evolved to look like 1 of these particular host species, rather than some decision on the bird's part when laying the egg, or environmental factors (e.g. influence of a marshland diet) influencing the egg's camouflage.

Does this mean that the cuckoo is going through divergent evolution, leading to speciation?

Also, do we ever see interbreeding between different "strains" of cuckoo, and does this have a negative impact on "egg camouflage", or is this trait controlled by the genes of only one of the parents, thus avoiding this risk?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You may find this article helpful: phys.org/news/2014-11-egg-colours-cuckoos-masters-disguise.html $\endgroup$
    – Arrow
    Commented May 24 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thank-you; so it seems that in the case of at least one cuckoo species (from Aus) the cuckoo is a generalist, so the per-host-species-speciation isn't a concern. $\endgroup$
    – JohnLBevan
    Commented May 24 at 17:41


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