Brood parasitism is linked to egg pattern diversity within and among species of Australian passerines.
University of Chicago press
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Bird eggs show striking diversity in color and pattern. One explanation for this is that interactions between avian brood parasites and their hosts drive egg phenotype evolution. Brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other species, their hosts. Many hosts defend their nests against parasitism by rejecting foreign eggs, which selects for parasite eggs that mimic those of the host. In theory, this may in turn select for changes in host egg phenotypes over time to facilitate discrimination of parasite eggs. Here, we test for the first time whether parasitism by brood parasites has led to increased divergence in egg phenotype among host species. Using Australian host and nonhost species and objective measures of egg color and pattern, we show that (i) hosts of brood parasites have higher within-species variation in egg pattern than nonhosts, supporting previous findings in other systems, and (ii) host species have diverged more in their egg patterns than nonhost species after controlling for divergence time. Overall, our results suggest that brood parasitism has played a significant role in the evolution of egg diversity and that these effects are evident, not only within species, but also among species.
I.M. was supported by an Australian National University Vice-Chancellor’s travel grant, and N.E.L. was supported by the Australian Research Council.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 187, pp. 351 - 362
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