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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 6, pp 1053–1061 | Cite as

Lazy males and hardworking females? Sexual conflict over parental care in a brood parasite host and its consequences for chick growth

  • Milica PožgayováEmail author
  • Radovan Beňo
  • Petr Procházka
  • Václav Jelínek
  • Marek Mihai Abraham
  • Marcel Honza
Original Paper

Abstract

Due to the costs of parental care, a conflict of interests often arises between mates wherein each prefers the other to invest more. As with parents raising their own offspring, hosts of brood parasites also exhibit negotiations over investment, becoming particularly intensive when parasite demands are high. Lack of cooperation between the partners may eventually affect the condition and fledging success of the young. Here, we investigate the magnitude of sexual conflict over food provisioning in socially polygynous great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) rearing either a parasitic common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) or their own nestlings and its consequences for chick growth. We found that, overall, males provided less food than females, and that polygynous males provided less food per nest than monogamous males. Moreover, polygynous males provisioning two simultaneous broods supplied their own offspring in relation to age and type (cuckoo/host) of the other brood. Females, unlike males, delivered food amount almost irrespective of social status. The difference in contribution between polygynous males and their mates was most pronounced in nests with a cuckoo. In any case, reduced paternal assistance had no significant effect on growth performance of nestlings. In cuckoos, however, this result may be biased as we could not consider a relatively high proportion of secondary cuckoos that died before their growth parameters could be ascertained. Although not detected in chick growth, host sexual conflict over food provisioning may impose a cost on cuckoos in terms of increased mortality in secondary nests.

Keywords

Acrocephalus arundinaceus Brood parasitism Cuculus canorus Feeding Parental investment Social polygyny 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank P. Baslerová, T. Karasová, M. Čapek, L. Halová, J. Koleček, K. Morongová, Z. Šebelíková, M. Šulc and A. Trnka for their assistance in the field. The suggestions of M. Leonard and two anonymous referees significantly improved earlier versions of the manuscript. K. Roche meticulously polished the English. We are also obliged to the management of Fish Farm Hodonín for their consent to conduct the research on their private land and to local ornithologists for their tolerant approach to our activities. The study was supported by a grant of the Czech Science Foundation (grant number P506/12/2404) and the Institutional Research Plan (RVO: 68081766).

Ethical standards

This study was carried out with the permission of the regional conservation authorities (permit numbers 00312/PA/2008/AOPK and JMK20189/2010). Bird catching and ringing was conducted under licence (numbers 906 and 1058) and followed rules issued by the Czech Bird Ringing Centre. The fieldwork adhered to the Animal Care Protocol of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (numbers 173/2008 and 128/2010) and was in compliance with current Czech Law on the Protection of Animals against Mistreatment (licence numbers V/1/2005/28 and 0008/98-M103).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Milica Požgayová
    • 1
    Email author
  • Radovan Beňo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Petr Procházka
    • 1
  • Václav Jelínek
    • 1
  • Marek Mihai Abraham
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marcel Honza
    • 1
  1. 1.Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicInstitute of Vertebrate BiologyBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of Sciences, Institute of Botany and ZoologyMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

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