Evolution of Avian Brood Parasitism and Phylogenetic History of Brood Parasites

  • Oliver KrügerEmail author
  • Martina Pauli
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


The fascination with avian brood parasitism has spawned a wealth of research into breeding strategies and their evolutionary consequences. Yet until today, there is no clear consensus how brood parasitism has evolved. On current evidence, it is more likely that interspecific brood parasitism evolved directly from an ancestral species with parental care, rather than via the stepping stone of conspecific brood parasitism. Interspecific brood parasitism has evolved independently seven times in birds, but only about 1% of all bird species are interspecific brood parasites. The evolution of this breeding strategy was accompanied by profound changes in both ecology and life history. In cuckoos, it is more likely to be a later adaptation, possibly reducing the cost of raising chicks, whereas the reduction of egg size is a direct adaptation in the coevolutionary interaction with host species. The study of the evolution of brood parasitism and its phylogenetic history is likely to further advance rapidly in the near future as genomic approaches become feasible in non-model species and phylogenetic analyses techniques are developed at an equally breath-taking rate.


Coevolution Comparative analysis Cuckoos Evolutionary pathway analysis Trait evolution 



We are very grateful for the constructive and very helpful comments made by Bruce Lyon and Manuel Soler which significantly improved this chapter. O. K. and M. P. were both funded by the Marie Curie programme of the EU. O.K. also received funding via a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, a Churchill College Junior Research Fellowship and a Heisenberg-Professorship of the German Research Foundation (DFG, KR 2089/2-1).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal BehaviourBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

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