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Keywords:

  • avian;
  • competition;
  • dependent traits;
  • feeding;
  • invertebrates;
  • mobility;
  • theft

Understanding of the conditions encouraging the evolution of kleptoparasitism has been limited by the preponderance of attention focused on a limited number of taxa (predominantly birds). However, most animal taxa contain kleptoparasitic members. In many ways, adult birds are aberrant because most are acrobatic, capable of three-dimensional movement, and steal from hosts that are capable of similar feats. The mobility of kleptoparasites and their hosts falls along a continuum, with the acrobatic birds at one end and sessile hosts and kleptoparasites at the other. Considering sedentary systems requires amendments to the criteria previously outlined as necessary for kleptoparasitism. Kleptoparasitic interactions between agile participants are ephemeral, involve numerous hosts over the lifetime of the kleptoparasite, and usually rely on vision. Large concentrations of hosts and large, high-quality food items are important in mobile systems. By contrast, the long-term, intimate associations of sedentary interactions demand that the host not consume the kleptoparasite's offspring and that the host must either have a longer life cycle than the kleptoparasite or be located in aggregations that have staggered life cycles (so the kleptoparasite can move to a new host when the original host dies). Expanding studies of kleptoparasitism to other taxa will differentiate between the selective pressures and evolutionary responses that are universal among kleptoparasitic symbioses and those that are restricted to certain groups. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 745–762.