Home range overlap and its genetic correlates in an avian brood parasite, the lesser cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus
The absence of parental care is of importance in the evolution of mating and breeding systems. However, its importance in the evolution of these systems in higher vertebrates, such as birds and mammals, has not been well defined since nearly all of them exhibit some form of parental care. Avian brood parasites thus provide a unique opportunity to explore the effect of a lack of parental care in higher vertebrates because they shift care for their progeny onto other species. We investigated the social system of an avian brood parasite, the lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus), by using a comprehensive approach that included field observation, radio-tracking, and genetic analyses. We found that genetically unrelated, multiple males and females coexist in a single area; radio-tracking confirmed that this co-occurrence was neither temporary nor arbitrary. Instead, sympatric cuckoos appeared to share their home ranges and often chased each other for mating without antagonistic physical interaction. We conclude that the lesser cuckoo may employ a scramble competition mating system without territoriality, and that this mating system, which is unusual in higher vertebrates, may have arisen due to the absence of parental care. Future studies assessing the parentage of nestlings are needed to establish the genetic basis of this social system.
KeywordsBreeding system Parental care Radio-tracking Scramble competition Mating system
We thank Hee-Jin Noh, Kyung-Hoe Kim, Ha-Na Yoo, Hae-Ni Kim, Sohyeon Yoo, Jung-Woon Jang, Ki-Tae Ahn, and Young-Jun Kim for their assistance in the fieldwork. We are also grateful to Yong-Ho Park and Sung-Hee Shim for their warm hospitality during the fieldwork and Young-Min Moon for valuable help in spatial data analysis. This study was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (grant number: NRF-2012R1A6A3A04040003), for which we are most grateful.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
The fieldwork was carried out in accordance with the relevant national and international guidelines. The lesser cuckoos were captured with the permission of local government, Seogwipo-si and the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea. Bird care and fieldwork procedures were approved by Kyung Hee University Animal Ethics Committee.
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