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Anim Behav. 2000 Jan;59(1):69-81.

Imprinting and the origin of parasite-host species associations in brood-parasitic indigobirds, Vidua chalybeata.

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Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan


Brood-parasitic village indigobirds, Vidua chalybeata, were bred in captivity and foster-reared by their normal host species, the red-billed firefinch, Lagonosticta senegala, or by an experimental foster species, the Bengalese finch, Lonchura striata. Captive-reared female indigobirds were tested as adults for mate choice and for host choice. In tests of mate choice, female indigobirds responded preferentially towards mimicry songs of male indigobirds that were similar to those of the females' own foster parents. Females reared by Bengalese finches responded to male songs that mimicked Bengalese finch song rather than to male songs that mimicked their normal host species, the firefinch. In tests of host choice, females reared by Bengalese finches laid in the nests of Bengalese finches, and females reared by firefinches laid in the nests of firefinches. Wild-caught females showed the same behaviours as captive-bred females reared by firefinches. A female indigobird's social companions (firefinch or Bengalese) following her independence of her foster parents had no effect on her sexual response to male mimicry song or her choice of a host species in brood parasitism. The results support the predictions of a model of imprinting-like behaviour development in which young indigobirds focus their attention on their foster parents, rather than a model of innate bias for songs and nests of their normal host species, or a null model of nonspecific brood parasitism and differential survival. The results provide experimental support for the recent origin of brood parasite-host associations and the significance of imprinting in speciation in these brood parasites. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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