Patterns and coevolutionary consequences of repeated brood parasitism

Mark E. Hauber, Pamela J. Yeh, John O.L. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The absence of adaptive host responses to virulent parasites and pathogens is paradoxical. We explored the theoretical possibility that the evolution of anti-parasitic egg-ejection strategies was delayed by avian hosts' lifetime experiences with brood parasitism. An analytical model indicated that individual hosts' repeated exposure to parasitism decreased the relative benefits of learning-based rejecter strategies when parasitism was particularly costly. Because brood parasitic brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) and their hosts are typically philopatric across breeding attempts, spatially and temporally non-random patterns of parasitism may contribute to low levels of observed egg-ejection by vulnerable cowbird hosts. In support, we found that in three populations of two host species individual females experienced repeated cowbird parasitism during their lifetimes. We propose that repeated parasitism contributes to counterintuitive patterns of coevolutionary dynamics in spatially structured host-parasite populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S317-S320
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue numberSUPPL. 5
StatePublished - Aug 7 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Host-parasite coevolution
  • Philopatry
  • Spatial modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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