Higher-level pattern features provide additional information to birds when recognizing and rejecting parasitic eggs.
Stoddard, Mary Caswell
Hogan, Benedict G
Spottiswoode, Claire N
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
The Royal Society
MetadataShow full item record
Stoddard, M. C., Hogan, B. G., Stevens, M., & Spottiswoode, C. N. (2019). Higher-level pattern features provide additional information to birds when recognizing and rejecting parasitic eggs.. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 374 (1769), 20180197. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2018.0197
Despite a recent explosion of research on pattern recognition, in both neuroscience and computer vision, we lack a basic understanding of how most animals perceive and respond to patterns in the wild. Avian brood parasites and their hosts provide an ideal study system for investigating the mechanisms of pattern recognition. The cuckoo finch, Anomalospiza imberbis, and its host the tawny-flanked prinia, Prinia subflava, lay highly polymorphic eggs with a great deal of variation in colour and patterning, with the cuckoo finch capable of close egg mimicry. Behavioural experiments in Zambia have previously shown that prinias use colour and multiple 'low-level' (occurring in early stages of visual processing) pattern attributes, derived from spatial frequency analysis, when rejecting foreign eggs. Here, we explore the extent to which host birds might also use 'higher-level' pattern attributes, derived from a feature detection algorithm, to make rejection decisions. Using a SIFT-based pattern recognition algorithm, NaturePatternMatch, we show that hosts are more likely to reject a foreign egg if its higher-level pattern features-which capture information about the shape and orientation of markings-differ from those of the host eggs. A revised statistical model explains about 37% variance in egg rejection behaviour, and differences in colour, low-level and higher-level pattern features all predict rejection, accounting for 42, 44 and 14% of the explained variance, respectively. Thus, higher-level pattern features provide a small but measurable improvement to the original model and may be especially useful when colour and low-level pattern features provide hosts with little information. Understanding the relative importance of low- and higher-level pattern features is a valuable goal for future work on animal coloration, especially in the contexts of mimicry, camouflage and individual recognition. This article is part of the theme issue 'The coevolutionary biology of brood parasitism: from mechanism to pattern'.
Animals, Songbirds, Finches, Nesting Behavior, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Zambia, Female, Host-Parasite Interactions, Biological Evolution, Recognition, Psychology
BBSRC The Royal Society Sidney Sussex College Princeton University Sloan Research Fellowship
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/J014109/1)
The Royal Society (dh0867528)
Royal Society (RG2010/RZ)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2018.0197
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/288291