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Keywords:

  • avian brood parasitism;
  • co-evolution;
  • egg phenotype;
  • frequency-dependent selection;
  • oscillation;
  • population genetics model

Abstract

In avian brood parasitism, egg phenotype plays a key role for both host and parasite reproduction. Several parrotbill species of the genus Paradoxornis are parasitized by the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus, and clear polymorphism in egg phenotype is observed. In this article, we develop a population genetics model in order to identify the key parameters that control the maintenance of egg polymorphism. The model analyses show that egg polymorphism can be maintained either statically as an equilibrium or dynamically with frequency oscillations depending on the sensitivity of the host against unlike eggs and how the parasite targets host nests with specific egg phenotypes. On the basis of the model, we discuss egg polymorphism observed in parrotbills and other host species parasitized by the cuckoo. We suggest the possibility that frequencies of egg phenotypes oscillate and we appeal for monitoring of cuckoo–host interactions over a large spatiotemporal scale.