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Genetic and Geographic Variation in Rejection Behavior of Cuckoo Eggs by European Magpie Populations: An Experimental Test of Rejecter-Gene Flow

Juan Jose Soler, Juan Gabriel Martinez, Manuel Soler and Anders Pape Moller
Evolution
Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jun., 1999), pp. 947-956
DOI: 10.2307/2640734
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640734
Page Count: 10
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Genetic and Geographic Variation in Rejection Behavior of Cuckoo Eggs by European Magpie Populations: An Experimental Test of Rejecter-Gene Flow
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Abstract

Host responses toward brood parasitism have been shown to differ among populations depending on the duration of sympatry between host and parasite, although populations not currently parasitized show rejection behavior against parasitic eggs. The persistence of rejection behavior in unparasitized host populations and rapid increases of rejection rate in parasitized ones have sometimes been explained as the result of gene flow of rejecter genes from sympatry to allopatry (rejecter-gene flow hypothesis). We present data on the rejection behavior of magpies (Pica pica), the main European host of the great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius), in 15 populations (nine sympatric, six allopatric) across their distribution range in Europe. Rejection rates of mimetic and nonmimetic model eggs were significantly higher in sympatric than in allopatric magpie populations, although differences in rejection rate of both mimetic and nonmimetic model eggs between magpie populations were significantly correlated even after controlling for phylogenetic effects, with differences between sympatric and allopatric magpie populations being larger for mimetic than for nonmimetic model eggs. Differences in rejection of mimetic model eggs were related to both genetic and geographic distances between populations, but differences in rejection rate of nonmimetic model eggs were unrelated to these distances. However, when comparing only sympatric populations, differences in rejection rate of both mimetic and nonmimetic model eggs were related to geographic distances. A multiple autocorrelation analysis revealed that differences among populations in rejection rates of mimetic model eggs had a strong geographic component, whereas the main component of rejection rate of nonmimetic model eggs was genetic rather than geographic. These results support the rejecter-gene flow hypothesis. We discuss differences in rejection rates of mimetic and nonmimetic model eggs that suggest the egg-recognition ability of the host is genetically based, but is affected by a learning process for fine tuning of recognition.

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