The Evolution of Intraspecific Brood Parasitism in Birds and Insects.

Research paper by AG Zink

Indexed on: 16 Mar '00Published on: 16 Mar '00Published in: The American naturalist


Many species of birds and insects engage in intraspecific brood parasitism (IBP), when a female lays eggs in the nest of a conspecific and leaves without providing parental care. These visiting females may also act to cooperate with a primary female, staying to provide parental care. Therefore, IBP and cooperative breeding can be considered extremes on a continuum of parental care provided by a secondary female. When a secondary female abandons a nest, she creates an asymmetry in parental care between herself and the host. While models of asymmetry in reproductive allocation have focused directly on relatedness between females, we lack an appropriate theoretical framework that addresses the effects of relatedness on parental care asymmetry. Here, I present an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) model that predicts the conditions under which IBP is favored over cooperation and solitary breeding. Intraspecific brood parasitism is less likely to evolve (relative to cooperation and solitary breeding) as the relatedness between a host and parasite increases. It can evolve, however, if parasites achieve a high overall fecundity relative to solitary females. Constraints on solitary breeding can further promote IBP under some circumstances. Cooperation is favored when relatedness is high and reproductive skew is low. This model makes several predictions regarding the conditions under which IBP may evolve, motivating a variety of experimental approaches.