Mar
16
2008

No worm, life for early birds. Human analogy uncertain.

The early bird: and its nemesis: the early worm.
The early bird: and its nemesis: the early worm.Courtesy Vicki & Chuck Rogers- Best Friends
Careful observation has once again made fools of us. I always knew this would happen, but had previously assumed that it would have something to do with someone finally noticing the things I do when I think no one is watching. (And why shouldn’t I take sandwiches from the trash?)

No, in this particular case, science has shown that common knowledge isn’t always right, and that early birds do not necessarily get the worm.

“The worm” here is a metaphor for life.

Everyone knows, of course, that the early bird gets the worm. That is to say, whoever gets up first earns the right to finish off the donuts, and which ever animal is born before its siblings will be stronger and better able to compete for food (and what have you) that its good for nothing slowpoke brothers and sisters. These “late birds” lose the head start at life, and have a more difficult time catching up, if they ever do.

Recently, however, biologists at the University of North Carolina have found this little bit of wisdom to be less than entirely wise. This is not to say that early-hatching birds have lost any sort of advantage--they continue to steal worms from their younger siblings. No, early hatchers remain true to the saying, but eggs that are laid first have been found to have a significantly decreased chance of hatching at all. It seems that after laying her first egg, bird mothers aren’t all that concerned yet with settling down and incubating the little sucker. Therefore, its chances of survival take quite a dip.

What’s more, it may be that the reasons for this have to do with the fact that early (hatching) birds do tend to get the worms: if mother birds were to incubate their first egg before the rest were laid, that early hatching bird would out compete its siblings, and probably decrease the total bird output.

It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? I compared it to my own experiences as a lifelong late bird--I was born last, am rarely early in general, and I kind of hate worms (they taste like slimy dirt. Seriously)--and it made me a little wistful for similar behavior in humans. If only my mother would have spent more time foraging and flying around in my older brother’s incubating days, things probably would have gone much better for me. There would have been more presents for me at holidays, I could have grown into a more robust physique (like the brother did), and I would have gotten the top bunk. I would have gotten the worm, if you will. If only...

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

koallainfestation37's picture
koallainfestation37 says:

wow i really learned a lot today
after i read this
i now have a whole new respect for baby birds

posted on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 10:26am
diamond2008's picture
diamond2008 says:

aww finally something is said about the birds

posted on Mon, 05/05/2008 - 10:49am

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