Chinese Birds
Chinese Birds 2012, 3(4) 259-273 DOI:   10.5122/cbirds.2012.0033  ISSN: 1674-7674 CN: 11-5870/Q

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abiotic environment
biotic environment
geographic theory of coevolution
life history traits
limits to adaptation
Anders P. MOLLER
Article by Anders P. MOLLER
Article by Juan J. SOLER

A coevolutionary framework based on temporal and spatial ecology of host-parasite interactions: A missing link in studies of brood parasitism

Anders P. MOLLER 1,*, Juan J. SOLER 2

1 Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079, Université Paris-Sud, Bâtiment 362, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France 2 Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, Ctra. Sacramento s/n, La Cañada de San Urbano, E-04120 Almería, Spain


A central tenet of coevolutionary theory, including theory of the coevolutionary relationship between brood parasites and their hosts, is that temporal and spatial patterns may reveal important information about ecological and evolutionary dynamics. For instance, level of genetic structure of populations provides important information about the role of genetics and gene flow in determining local patterns of selection on hosts due to parasitism (i.e., egg rejection) and on parasites due to selection by hosts (i.e., egg mimicry). Furthermore, abiotic (i.e., climatic conditions) and biotic (phenotypic characteristics of animals) factors that also vary spatially may directly or indirectly affect populations of hosts and brood parasites and, therefore, their interaction. By reviewing the literature, we found considerable evidence for an effect of the spatially and temporally structured abiotic environment on the phenotype of both parasite and host eggs and the degree of mimicry. Moreover, we found examples suggesting that specific life history characteristics of hosts that vary geographically and/or temporally may affect the probability of initial colonization of a new host species and the direction and the speed of coevolution. We provide an exhaustive review of studies investigating temporal and spatial patterns of the interaction between brood parasites and their hosts. Such temporal and spatial trends in parasite and host traits are, together with genetic information on rejection and significant effects of gene flow, consistent with coevolutionary dynamics. However, gene flow and changes in the temporal and spatial patterns of abundance of both parasites and hosts may result in frequent cases of counter-intuitive relationships between the phenotype of the parasite and that of the host (i.e., poor or no mimicry), which may suggest limits to the degree of adaptation. We provide a list of scientific questions in need of further investigation, concluding that studies of brood parasites and their hosts may play a central role in testing the geographic theory of coevolution and several alternative hypotheses.

Keywords abiotic environment   biotic environment   coevolution   cuckoos   geographic theory of coevolution   life history traits   limits to adaptation  
Received 2012-10-11 Revised 2012-11-30 Online:  
DOI: 10.5122/cbirds.2012.0033
Corresponding Authors: Anders P. Moller
About author:

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