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Nest sanitation as an effective defence against brood parasitism

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Rok publikování 2022
Druh Článek v odborném periodiku
Časopis / Zdroj Animal Cognition
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Přírodovědecká fakulta

Klíčová slova Mimicry; Nest cleaning; Visual cues; Sensory ecology; Template image; Illumination
Popis Egg rejection is a crucial defence strategy against brood parasitism that requires the host to correctly recognise the foreign egg. Rejection behaviour has, thus, evolved in many hosts, facilitated by the visual differences between the parasitic and host eggs, and driving hosts to rely on colour and pattern cues. On the other hand, the need to recognise non-egg-shaped objects to carry out nest sanitation led birds to evolve the ability to discriminate and eject objects using mainly shape cues. However, little is known regarding the evolutionary significance of rejection behaviour in general and the cognitive processes underlying it. Here, we investigated the response of the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) during pre-laying and laying stages to four objects types that differed in shape (eggs vs stars) and colour/pattern (mimetic vs non-mimetic) to investigate (1) what cognitive mechanisms are involved in object discrimination and (2) whether egg rejection is a direct defence against brood parasitism, or simply a product of nest sanitation. We found that swallows ejected stars more often than eggs in both stages, indicating that swallows possess a template for the shape of their eggs. Since the effect of colour/pattern on ejection decisions was minor, we suggest that barn swallows have not evolved a direct defence against brood parasitism but instead, egg ejection might be a product of their well-developed nest sanitation behaviour. Nonetheless, the fact that mimetic eggs were ejected especially in the pre-laying stage shows that nest sanitation could be an effective defence against poorly timed brood parasitism.
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