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Sexual Imprinting and the Origin of Obligate Brood Parasitism in Birds

Slagsvold, Hansen
2001 American Naturalist  
We discuss two pathways along which obligate brood parasitism (OBP) may evolve and examine some of the critical steps that must be passed by letting great tits Parus major be reared by blue tits Parus caeruleus in a field experiment. The cross-fostered chicks survived well in blue tit nests, but their local recruitment and reproductive success was much lower than that of controls. The effect was strongest when great tits grew up with siblings of the host species rather than with conspecific
more » ... ith conspecific siblings in blue tit nests. The low success seemed to be caused by misimprinting because the cross-fostered birds behaved like blue tits in several aspects (species association, alarm calls, and aggressive response by resident females to caged intruders). Some birds of both sexes were apparently so strongly imprinted that they did not attract or accept a social mate of their own species. We conclude that imprinting may be necessary for OBP to evolve in birds because the parasite must be attracted to the nests of the host species to add eggs and thereby continue the parasitic life cycle. However, strong imprinting may also prevent OBP from occurring if parasitic offspring seek a mate from the host species.
doi:10.2307/3079123 pmid:18707332 fatcat:xkwn23hvcvawlc3354amdmilwq