Decoding dumping ducks
Article first published online: 7 JUN 2007
Volume 16, Issue 13, pages 2610–2612, July 2007
How to Cite
DICKINSON, J. L. (2007), Decoding dumping ducks. Molecular Ecology, 16: 2610–2612. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03377.x
- Issue published online: 7 JUN 2007
- Article first published online: 7 JUN 2007
Conspecific brood parasitism, where females of the same species lay eggs in each other's nests, is common in waterfowl, and is usually considered costly to host females, which are stuck looking after eggs and chicks that are not their own. However, since female waterfowl often exhibit an unusual propensity to nest near where they were born, there has been some uncertainty over whether, in ducks and geese, laying in nests of conspecifics really is parasitism. Do parasitic and host females tend to be related? And is parasitism actually a form of cooperation in disguise? In a population in Hudson Bay, Andersson & Waldeck (this issue) found that ‘parasitic’ eggs in nests of the common eider, Somateria mollissima sedentaria, are more closely related to host eggs than expected by chance. In fact, host and ‘donor’ eggs are more closely related than are females breeding at neighbouring nests. The Hudson Bay population of common eiders is unusual, because unlike in more benign climates, females do not tend to breed near their natal nest. Spatial proximity alone cannot account for the high relatedness between host eggs and ‘dumped’ or donor eggs. Instead, the high relatedness values are probably the result of active recognition, where females favour kin, either when dumping or accepting eggs. These new data, along with evidence indicating that the donor lays the first egg in the nest nearly half the time, suggest that what appears to be parasitism in common eiders may be a form of kin-based cooperation.