J. Jenner – More Than Just a Milkmaid Stalker
Last week I told you about how the man known as the father of vaccination, Dr. Edward Jenner, developed the first widely used smallpox vaccine.
In addition to being fond of milkmaids and developing vaccines, Dr. Jenner was a surgeon, studied heart problems and natural history (the study of organisms in their own environment).
Was Dr. Jenner Cuckoo? In fact, it was his natural history study of the cuckoo that led to him being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honor indeed!
Cuckoos have a very interesting strategy for raising their young. (A strategy I sometimes wish I could use!) Female cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and allow the host birds to brood and raise their young.
In my opinion, it is quite a marvel of science. Cuckoos in general will lay their eggs in nests from a variety of other birds, but related females in one family line will always choose the same species of host. The coloration of the cuckoo egg will match those of its hosts, and the genetic information that determines egg color is passed from female to female. Once grown, a female cuckoo will go back and lay eggs in nests of the same host bird that she was raised by.
In Dr. Jenner’s time, it was known that other bird species were raising cuckoo chicks, often without raising their own chicks. After many long hours of observation, Dr. Jenner made the finding that once born, the cuckoo chick will push the host’s eggs and fledglings out of the nest! How’s that for taking over the house?
Dr. Jenner’s findings were not immediately accepted and it wasn’t until many years later when photography was invented that his observations were confirmed.
Author’s Note: I am just over a third of the way through the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. In case you are new here, the A to Z challenge involves blogging daily throughout the month of April (except for Sundays). Each day focuses on a different letter of the alphabet, starting with A. The letter J was a bit of a stretch for me, and there are a few more challenges coming up! Hopefully I will make it all the way through!