Host Defences Against Brood Parasite Nestlings: Theoretical Expectations and Empirical Evidence

  • Tomáš GrimEmail author
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


In the past, chick discrimination was assumed to be non-existent without virtually any research invested to check the reality. Models of brood parasitism considered the benefits of chick rejection small and costs too high; consequently, the nestling stage was long ignored in studies of host–parasite coevolution. Remarkably, the majority of recent studies that addressed parasite chick biology did find evidence for host behaviours that alleviate the costs of parasitism during nestling stage. Most of the hosts that (apparently) discriminate against parasite chicks are acceptors of natural parasite eggs; this pattern is in line with the rarer enemy model. The main impetus for future work is therefore not naively assuming but empirically checking the (non)-existence of chick discrimination to show how common is chick discrimination in reality. This will allow to elucidate mechanisms of chick discrimination, both those that specifically evolved as a response to past parasitism pressure and those stemming from non-specific general host life history traits, and factors that facilitate or constrain their evolution.



I am grateful to E. Røskaft, A. Moksnes and B. G. Stokke for their hospitality during my stay at NTNU in Trondheim in 2002 during which I conceived the rarer enemy model and to Ø. Holen for inviting me to give a seminar at the University of Oslo in October 2002 where I first presented the concept (thus, the model was developed independently from conclusions of Langmore et al. 2003). I am indebted to R. Planqué, N. F. Britton and N. R. Franks for their work on our joint manuscript (during 2003–2005) which integrated their idea of defence portfolios with my concept of rarer enemy; after being rejected six times, we decided to publish two separate papers (Grim 2006; Britton et al. 2007). For the comments on the draft, I am grateful to M. C. De Mársico and R. Planqué. The manuscript benefited from comments by D. Martín-Gálvez, R. Kilner and M. Soler. The Human Frontier Science Program (RGY69/2007 and RGY83/2012) and the Czech Science Foundation (P506/12/2404) supported my research.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Laboratory of OrnithologyPalacký UniversityOlomoucCzech Republic

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