Birds find a meal through thick and thin


OYSTERCATCHERS can tell which half of their prey’s hinged shell is thinner. But if in doubt, they peck at the right-hand half. Stephen Lea of the University of Exeter found that the birds can detect a 0.037-millimetre difference in the thickness of the two “valves” of a mussel shell. Although this difference is tiny, attacking the thinner valve saves the birds 13 per cent of the effort needed to open a shell, the researchers told a meeting of the British Ecological Society in Leeds last month. Some 56 per cent of mussels have thinner right-hand valves,
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