Page:Origin of Species 1859 facsimile.djvu/230

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218
Chap. VII.
INSTINCT.

generated. I may add that, according to Dr. Gray and to some other observers, the European cuckoo has not utterly lost all maternal love and care for her own offspring.

The occasional habit of birds laying their eggs in other birds' nests, either of the same or of a distinct species, is not very uncommon with the Gallinaceæ; and this perhaps explains the origin of a singular instinct in the allied group of ostriches. For several hen ostriches, at least in the case of the American species, unite and lay first a few eggs in one nest and then in another; and these are hatched by the males. This instinct may probably be accounted for by the fact of the hens laying a large number of eggs; but, as in the case of the cuckoo, at intervals of two or three days. This instinct, however, of the American ostrich has not as yet been perfected; for a surprising number of eggs lie strewed over the plains, so that in one day's hunting I picked up no less than twenty lost and wasted eggs.

Many bees are parasitic, and always lay their eggs in the nests of bees of other kinds. This case is more remarkable than that of the cuckoo; for these bees have not only their instincts but their structure modified in accordance with their parasitic habits; for they do not possess the pollen-collecting apparatus which would be necessary if they had to store food for their own young. Some species, likewise, of Sphegidæ (wasp-like insects) are parasitic on other species; and M. Fabre has lately shown good reason for believing that although the Tachytes nigra generally makes its own burrow and stores it with paralysed prey for its own larvæ to feed on, yet that when this insect finds a burrow already made and stored by another sphex, it takes advantage of the prize, and becomes for the occasion parasitic. In this case, as with the supposed case of the cuckoo, I can