Interspecific Avian Brood Parasitism as a Model System for Exploring Ecological and Evolutionary Questions Related to Habitat Selection

  • Juan J. SolerEmail author
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


Characteristics of avian brood parasitism make it an appropriate system to explore general ecological and evolutionary questions. This is mainly because the selection pressures due to environmental conditions that are working on hosts and on brood parasites are asymmetric, and the fact that hosts and brood parasites develop in similar environmental conditions, which allows for testing exclusive predictions associated with ecological and evolutionary hypotheses. I here concentrate on the appropriateness of brood parasitism for exploring questions directly or indirectly related to habitat selection and dispersal. I introduce the importance of social information and risk of parasitism on habitat selection by hosts and parasites, which, among others, would influence the geographic distribution and abundance of counterparts. I also introduce the ecological implications of evolutionary outcomes of the interactions between parasites and their hosts, which will partially determine the coevolutionary dynamics between parasite and hosts. Furthermore, to exemplify the advantages of using brood parasitism to explore these questions, I discuss some published papers that address each treated subject, mainly those from the research group I have been working with.


Animal distribution Asymmetric selection pressures Dispersal Host selection Social information 



I thank the constructive comments by Jeff Hoover, Merche Molina-Morales and Manuel Soler on a previous version of the manuscript, which considerably improved and clarified the text. While writing this paper, I benefited from the funding by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad and European funds (FEDER) (project CGL2013-48193-C3-1-P).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología Funcional y EvolutivaEstación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA-CSIC)AlmeríaSpain

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