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Egg size matching by an intraspecific brood parasite

January 1, 2011

Avian brood parasitism provides an ideal system with which to understand animal recognition and its affect on fitness. This phenomenon of laying eggs in the nests of other individuals has classically been framed from the perspective of interspecific brood parasitism and host recognition of parasitic eggs. Few examples exist of strategies adopted by intraspecific brood parasites to maximize success of parasitic eggs. Intraspecific brood parasitism within precocial birds can be a risky strategy in that hatch synchrony is essential to reproductive success. Given that egg size is positively correlated with incubation time, parasitic birds would benefit by recognizing and selecting hosts with a similar egg size. Intraspecific brood parasitism is an alternative reproductive strategy in black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans), a colonial nesting goose with precocial young. Based on a randomization test, parasitic eggs in this study differed less in size from eggs in their host's nests than did random eggs placed in random nests. Parasitic eggs were remarkably similar in size to hosts’ eggs, differing by <2% of volume on average from host eggs, whereas randomly paired eggs in random nests differed by nearly 8%. The precision with which parasitic brant match the egg size of hosts in our study supports our hypothesis that brant match egg size of hosts, thereby maximizing hatching success of their parasitic eggs.

Publication Year 2011
Title Egg size matching by an intraspecific brood parasite
DOI 10.1093/beheco/arr035
Authors Patrick R. Lemons, James S. Sedinger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Behavioral Ecology
Index ID 70032673
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center