Host genotype and age have no effect on rejection of parasitic eggs
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Egg rejection belongs to a widely used host tactic to prevent the costs incurred by avian brood parasitism. However, the genetic basis of this behaviour and the effect of host age on the probability of rejecting the parasitic egg remain largely unknown. Here, we used a set of 15 polymorphic microsatellite loci, including a previously detected candidate locus (Ase64), to link genotypes of female great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), a known rejecter, with their egg rejection responses in two host populations. We also tested whether host female age, as a measure of the experience with own eggs, plays a role in rejection of common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) eggs. We failed to find any consistent association of egg rejection responses with host female genotypes or age. It seems that host decisions on egg rejection show high levels of phenotypic plasticity and are likely to depend on the spatiotemporal variation in the parasitism pressure. Future studies exploring the repeatability of host responses towards parasitic eggs and the role of host individual experience with parasitic eggs would greatly improve our understanding of the variations in host behaviours considering the persistence of brood parasitism in host populations with rejecter phenotypes.
KeywordsAvian brood parasitism Cuckoo Egg recognition Genetic association Host responses Microsatellites
We thank T. Bolcková, M. Čapek, M. Kašová, K. Morongová, P. Prokop, Z. Šebelíková, M. Šulc, M. Trnka and B. Trnková for their invaluable assistance in the field. We are obliged to the management of the Fish Farm Hodonín, the Slovak Fishing Association and local conservation authorities for permissions to conduct the fieldwork. This work was supported by the Grant Agency of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (grant number IAA600930903), Czech Science Foundation (grant number P506/12/2404) and by the institutional support (RVO: 68081766). The manuscript benefited from comments of four anonymous referees.
The experiments comply with the current laws of the countries in which they were performed. The fieldwork in the Czech Republic adhered to the Animal Care Protocol of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (licence number 0008/98-M103) and the current Czech Law on the Protection of Animals Against Mistreatment. Licences to perform the research and bird ringing in Slovakia were issued by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic (licence numbers 269/132/05-5.1pil and 7230/2008-2.1pil).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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