Experimental shift in hosts' acceptance threshold of inaccurate-mimic brood parasite eggs

Márk E. Hauber, Csaba Moskát, Miklós Bán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hosts are expected to evolve resistance strategies that efficiently detect and resist exposure to virulent parasites and pathogens. When recognition is not error-proof, the acceptance threshold used by hosts to recognize parasites should be context dependent and become more restrictive with increasing predictability of parasitism. Here, we demonstrate that decisions of great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus to reject parasitism by the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus vary adaptively within a single egg-laying bout. Hosts typically accept one of their own eggs with experimentally added spots and the background colour left visible. In contrast, hosts reject such spotted eggs when individuals had been previously exposed to and rejected one of their own eggs whose background colour had been entirely masked. These results support patterns of adaptive modulation of antiparasitic strategies through shifts in the acceptance threshold of hosts and suggest a critical role for experience in the discrimination decisions between inaccurate-mimic parasite eggs and hosts' own eggs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-180
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 22 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Brood parasitism
  • Darwinian algorithms
  • Optimal conspecific acceptance threshold
  • Template

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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