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Relatedness and spatial proximity as determinants of host–parasite interactions in the brood parasitic Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)


Kim Jaatinen, Fax: +358-9-19157694; E-mail:


Recent studies, which have found evidence for kin-biased egg donation, have sparked interest in re-assessing the parasitic nature of conspecific brood parasitism (CBP). Since host–parasite kinship is essential for mutual benefits to arise from CBP, we explored the role of relatedness in determining the behaviour of conspecific nest parasites and their hosts in nesting female Barrow's goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica), a duck in which CBP is common. The results revealed that the amount of parasitism increased with host–parasite relatedness, the effect of which was independent of geographical proximity of host and parasite nests. Proximity per se was also positively associated with the amount of parasitism. Furthermore, while hosts appeared to reduce their clutch size as a response to the presence of parasitic eggs, the magnitude of host clutch reduction also tended to increase with increasing relatedness to the parasite. Hence, our results indicate that both relatedness and spatial proximity are important determinants of CBP, and that host clutch reduction may be an adaptation to nest parasitism, modulated by host–parasite relatedness. Taken together, the results provide a demonstration that relatedness influences host and parasite behaviour in Barrow's goldeneyes, resulting in kin-biased egg donation.

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