The incredible world of the Greater Ani

There are several reasons that made me choose biology as my profession. An important one was the fact that I probably won’t be bored in my career, since biologists have a sea of possibilities regarding organisms, approaches, areas and questions to be studied. However, despite knowing that, I confess I had been stuck in the same research line for the last five years and when I decided to change and get into the NEO program I was scared and excited at the same time. What I didn’t know was that taking the STRI’s Tropical Biology Field Course the world of possibilities would open in a way that themes I had never considered would become so appealing.

One of the interesting new ideas crossing my mind is the study of parental care and its evolutionary implications. Parental care can be defined as the behavior that results in the increase of offspring’s fitness. This includes preparation of nest, production of small number of offspring and care of eggs and/or young.

During the talk of Christie Riehl, we were introduced to the greater ani case (Crotophaga major). This is an interesting case of parental care in which unrelated adult birds share nests where the females lay eggs. These birds breed in group composed by monogamous couples. Each group builds a nest and every member is responsible for territorial defense, incubation and food delivery. Despite one may think, reproductive competition among females is high inside the groups. Each female ejects any egg in the nest if it was laid before her first egg be laid. Females stop to eject as soon as they lay their first egg, enforcing the idea that they can’t identify their own eggs and presumably to avoid removing their own offspring. We still don’t know the advantages of this kind of behavior, or even the responsible factors to maintain it, but it is evident this is a stable behavior in greater ani.

Christina Riehl Ani bird

(Photo by Christina Riehl-

After this talk I was thinking about my butterflies and for MY SURPRISE, after a short search on the internet, I found that parental care in Lepidoptera is more common than I thought it would be. Nature still surprises me and more than ever I am pretty sure I made the right choice when I chose Biology.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s