Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2004 Nov 18;432(7015):390-3.

An obligate brood parasite trapped in the intraspecific arms race of its hosts.

Author information

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA.


Reciprocal selection pressures often lead to close and adaptive matching of traits in coevolved species. A failure of one species to match the evolutionary trajectories of another is often attributed to evolutionary lags or to differing selection pressures across a geographic mosaic. Here we show that mismatches in adaptation of interacting species--an obligate brood parasitic duck and each of its two main hosts--are best explained by the evolutionary dynamics within the host species. Rejection of the brood parasite's eggs was common by both hosts, despite a lack of detectable cost of parasitism to the hosts. Egg rejection markedly reduced parasite fitness, but egg mimicry experiments revealed no phenotypic natural selection for more mimetic parasitic eggs. These paradoxical results were resolved by the discovery of intraspecific brood parasitism and conspecific egg rejection within the hosts themselves. The apparent arms race between species seems instead to be an incidental by-product of within-species conflict, with little recourse for evolutionary response by the parasite.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center