Document Detail

Sheep in wolf's clothing: host nestling vocalizations resemble their cowbird competitor's.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18252675     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Nestlings of many avian brood parasites are virtuosos at mimicking host nestling vocalizations, which, like egg mimicry, presumably ensures acceptance by host parents. Having been accepted, parasitic nestlings then often exaggerate the aspects of the host's display to increase parental care. Host nestlings may, in turn, exaggerate their vocalizations to keep up with the parasite, though this possibility has not been evaluated. We experimentally parasitized song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) nests with a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) chick to evaluate how host nestlings respond. Vocalizations emitted from experimentally parasitized nests were higher in frequency, and louder, than those from unparasitized nests, consistent with the cowbird exaggerating its signalling. In response, host nestlings exaggerated the frequency and amplitude of their vocalizations, such that they resembled the cowbird's while they 'scaled back' on calls per parental provisioning bout. Sparrows in parasitized nests were fed equally often as sparrows in unparasitized nests, suggesting that exaggerating some aspects of vocalization while scaling back on others can help host nestlings confronted with a cowbird. Our results support the recently proposed hypothesis that signalling in parasitized nests involves a dynamic interaction between parasitic and host nestlings, rather than a one-way process of mimicry by the parasite.
Katie Pagnucco; Liana Zanette; Michael Clinchy; Marty L Leonard
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society     Volume:  275     ISSN:  0962-8452     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Biol. Sci.     Publication Date:  2008 May 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2008-03-11     Completed Date:  2008-08-07     Revised Date:  2013-06-06    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101245157     Medline TA:  Proc Biol Sci     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1061-5     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont., Canada N6A 5B7.
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MeSH Terms
Feeding Behavior
Maternal Behavior
Nesting Behavior*
Paternal Behavior
Sparrows / physiology*
Vocalization, Animal*

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