Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host

Krüger O (2011)
Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 278(1719): 2777-2783.

Journal Article | Published | English

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Abstract
In coevolutionary arms races, like between cuckoos and their hosts, it is easy to understand why the host is under selection favouring anti-parasitism behaviour, such as egg rejection, which can lead to parasites evolving remarkable adaptations to 'trick' their host, such as mimetic eggs. But what about cases where the cuckoo egg is not mimetic and where the host does not act against it? Classically, such apparently non-adaptive behaviour is put down to evolutionary lag: given enough time, egg mimicry and parasite avoidance strategies will evolve. An alternative is that absence of egg mimicry and of anti-parasite behaviour is stable. Such stability is at first sight highly paradoxical. I show, using both field and experimental data to parametrize a simulation model, that the absence of defence behaviour by Cape bulbuls (Pycnonotus capensis) against parasitic eggs of the Jacobin cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus) is optimal behaviour. The cuckoo has evolved massive eggs (double the size of bulbul eggs) with thick shells, making it very hard or impossible for the host to eject the cuckoo egg. The host could still avoid brood parasitism by nest desertion. However, higher predation and parasitism risks later in the season makes desertion more costly than accepting the cuckoo egg, a strategy aided by the fact that many cuckoo eggs are incorrectly timed, so do not hatch in time and hence do not reduce host fitness to zero. Selection will therefore prevent the continuation of any coevolutionary arms race. Non-mimetic eggs and absence of defence strategies against cuckoo eggs will be the stable, if at first sight paradoxical, result.
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Krüger O. Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences. 2011;278(1719):2777-2783.
Krüger, O. (2011). Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 278(1719), 2777-2783.
Krüger, O. (2011). Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 278, 2777-2783.
Krüger, O., 2011. Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 278(1719), p 2777-2783.
O. Krüger, “Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host”, Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, vol. 278, 2011, pp. 2777-2783.
Krüger, O.: Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences. 278, 2777-2783 (2011).
Krüger, Oliver. “Brood parasitism selects for no defence in a cuckoo host”. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 278.1719 (2011): 2777-2783.
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4 Citations in Europe PMC

Data provided by Europe PubMed Central.

From parasitism to mutualism: unexpected interactions between a cuckoo and its host.
Canestrari D, Bolopo D, Turlings TC, Roder G, Marcos JM, Baglione V., Science 343(6177), 2014
PMID: 24653032
A novel method of rejection of brood parasitic eggs reduces parasitism intensity in a cowbird host.
De Marsico MC, Gloag R, Ursino CA, Reboreda JC., Biol. Lett. 9(3), 2013
PMID: 23485877
Brood parasite eggs enhance egg survivorship in a multiply parasitized host.
Gloag R, Fiorini VD, Reboreda JC, Kacelnik A., Proc. Biol. Sci. 279(1734), 2012
PMID: 22158956

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