High Diversity of Brood Parasites in China and Coevolution Between Cuckoos and Their Hosts

  • Wei LiangEmail author
  • Canchao Yang
  • Anders Pape Møller
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


Ecosystems consisting of multiple cuckoo species and their hosts constitute interesting examples of complex coevolutionary interactions. Competition among cuckoo species may increase the intensity of selection for adaptation to specialization but also for specific host species to evolve particular defenses against a specific species of cuckoo. Such specialization is further exacerbated by the evolution of different color morphs of the plumage of cuckoos but also by the evolution of different color morphs of cuckoo eggs. Here we review host use by sympatric brood parasitic cuckoos and coevolution in such communities of cuckoos and hosts in China. There was intense competition and overlap in host use among cuckoo species in China, and competitive exclusion may play an important role in the evolution of these patterns. In addition, parasitic cuckoos of median body size showed a particularly strong flexibility in exploiting hosts differing in body sizes because cuckoos of intermediate body size are particularly widespread. We hypothesize that such sympatric assemblages of multiple species of cuckoo may serve as model systems for the study of frequency-dependent selection and its evolutionary consequences.


Cuckoo competition Egg color morphs Host use Multiple-cuckoo system Nest defense 



We would like to thank M. Soler, A. Moksnes, and C. Moskát for providing constructive comments and helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31272328, 31472013 and 31772453 to WL and 31672303 and 31260514 to CY,) and the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-13-0761).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Ecology of Tropical Islands, College of Life SciencesHainan Normal UniversityHaikouP. R. China
  2. 2.Ecologie Systématique EvolutionUniversité Paris-Sud, CNRS, AgroParisTech,Université Paris-SaclayOrsay CedexFrance

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