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Ejecting chick cheats: a changing paradigm?

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Author(s): Grim Tomáš

Journal: Frontiers in Zoology
ISSN 1742-9994

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 14;
Date: 2011;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Evolutionary arms-races between avian brood parasites and their hosts have typically resulted in some spectacular adaptations, namely remarkable host ability to recognize and reject alien eggs and, in turn, sophisticated parasite egg mimicry. In a striking contrast to hosts sometimes rejecting even highly mimetic eggs, the same species typically fail to discriminate against highly dissimilar parasite chicks. Understanding of this enigma is still hampered by the rarity of empirical tests - and consequently evidence - for chick discrimination. Recent work on Australian host-parasite systems (Gerygone hosts vs. Chalcites parasites), increased not only the diversity of hosts showing chick discrimination, but also discovered an entirely novel host behavioural adaptation. The hosts do not desert parasite chicks (as in all previously reported empirical work) but physically remove living parasites from their nests. Here, I briefly discuss these exciting findings and put them in the context of recent empirical and theoretical work on parasite chick discrimination. Finally, I review factors responsible for a relatively slow progress in this research area and suggest most promising avenues for future research.
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