Fooled by a Sharpie! Cheating birds steered to fidelity with red marker

 Not a natural red-back: A coat of non-toxic marker on an orange-backed fairy-wren (right) makes it as attractive to females as the naturally scarlet subspecies (left).

Not a natural red-back: A coat of non-toxic marker on an orange-backed fairy-wren (right) makes it as attractive to females as the naturally scarlet subspecies (left).

Out in the Australian scrubland, scientists are using Sharpies to trick promiscuous female fairy-wrens from mating outside their subspecies, an “extra-marital” behavior that may be stalling evolution in its tracks.

Two groups of fairy-wrens live in Northwestern Australia: You can tells the males apart easily — one group has an orange band of feathers on their backs and the others are crimson red. Continue reading