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Brood-parasite interactions between great spotted cuckoos and magpies: a model system for studying coevolutionary relationships

Abstract

Brood parasitism is one of the systems where coevolutionary processes have received the most research. Here, we review experiments that suggest a coevolutionary process between the great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) and its magpie (Pica pica) host. We focus on different stages of establishment of the relationship, from cuckoos selecting individual hosts and hosts defending their nests from adult cuckoos, to the ability of magpies to detect cuckoo eggs in their nests. Novel coevolutionary insights emerge from our synthesis of the literature, including how the evolution of "Mafia" behaviour in cuckoos does not necessarily inhibit the evolution of host recognition and rejection of cuckoo offspring, and how different populations of black-billed magpies in Europe have evolved specific host traits (e.g. nest and clutch size) as a result of interactions with the great spotted cuckoo. Finally, the results of the synthesis reveal the importance of using a meta-population approach when studying coevolution. This is especially relevant in those cases where gene flow among populations with different degrees of brood parasitism explains patterns of coexistence between defensive and non-defensive host phenotypes. We propose the use of a meta-population approach to distinguish between the "evolutionary equilibrium" hypothesis and the "evolutionary lag" hypothesis.

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Soler, J., Soler, M. Brood-parasite interactions between great spotted cuckoos and magpies: a model system for studying coevolutionary relationships. Oecologia 125, 309–320 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420000487

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420000487

Key words

  • Brood parasitism
  • Clamator glandarius
  • Coevolution
  • Meta-population
  • Pica pica