Egg spotting pattern in common cuckoos and their great reed warbler hosts: A century perspective

Nikoletta Geltsch, C. Moskát, Z. Elek, Miklós Bán, Martin Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The characteristics of common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) and host eggs are widely thought to have coevolved over time, but few studies have tested this prediction. We compared cuckoo eggs with those of its primary host, the great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) from four time periods spanning >100 years (between 1900 and 2014), and studied if cuckoo eggshell patterns better resembled those of their hosts over time. We used image analysis to compare five eggshell pattern variables, relating to marking size, diversity, contrast, coverage and distribution on the egg surface. Each feature showed different temporal trends. All but one of these variables (‘dispersion’ of spots among egg regions) was species-specific and differed between hosts and parasites. The magnitude of change was greater for hosts than cuckoos, which could be a consequence of host eggs’ more intensive and variable spottiness. Specifically, the proportion of the egg surface covered with pattern increased marginally over time, and the dispersion of spotting became more even over the egg surface. Egg marking contrast showed a decreasing trend, with species differences also decreasing, suggesting better mimicry. Our results suggest multidirectional evolution of eggshell components in this system, with potential implications for mimicry and rejection over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-62
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume121
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2017

Fingerprint

Cuculidae
egg
eggs
egg shell
eggshell
Cuculus canorus
mimicry
interspecific variation
Acrocephalus arundinaceus
reed
image analysis
parasites
parasite
prediction

Keywords

  • Brood parasitism
  • Coevolution
  • Common cuckoo
  • Digital image analysis
  • Egg pattern
  • Egg spottiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Egg spotting pattern in common cuckoos and their great reed warbler hosts : A century perspective. / Geltsch, Nikoletta; Moskát, C.; Elek, Z.; Bán, Miklós; Stevens, Martin.

In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 121, No. 1, 01.05.2017, p. 50-62.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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