Brood Parasites Are a Heterogeneous and Functionally Distinct Class of Natural Enemies

Henry S. Pollock, Jeffrey P. Hoover, Floria M.K. Uy, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Brood parasitism is the introduction of unrelated progeny into the nest or colony of a host that then raises the foreign young. This reproductive strategy has evolved independently and repeatedly among diverse animal taxa, and brood parasite–host interactions have become models for understanding coevolutionary arms races. Yet brood parasites have remained largely overlooked in previous syntheses of natural enemy ecology. Here, we argue that brood parasites are a heterogeneous and versatile class of natural enemies, blending traits characteristic of predators and trophic parasites. The functional distinctness of brood parasites reinforces the idea that natural enemies exist along a continuum rather than as a dichotomy. Brood parasite–host interactions can serve as valuable case studies to unify parasite–host and predator–prey theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-596
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Parasitology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • brood parasite
  • natural enemy
  • predator
  • social parasite
  • species interactions
  • trophic strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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