‘The coevolutionary biology of brood parasitism: from mechanism to pattern’ is a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, co-edited by Claire together with Steve Portugal, Ros Gloag and Rose Thorogood – read on for 16 papers on some of the most fascinating animals you’ll meet! These include papers from our team on higher-level pattern signatures as defences in host eggs; reduced eggshell conductance as an adaptation to brood parasitism; and what egg signatures and immune systems have in common.
The formal summary of the special issue:
“Obligate brood parasitic cheats have fascinated natural historians since ancient times. Passing on the costs of parental care to others occurs widely in birds, insects, and fish, and often exerts selection pressure on hosts which in turn evolve defences. Brood parasites have therefore provided an illuminating system for researching coevolution. Nevertheless, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how ecology and evolutionary history constrain or facilitate these adaptations, via the mechanisms that shape or respond to selection. In this theme issue we bring together examples from across the animal kingdom to illustrate the diverse ways in which recent research is addressing this gap. First it presents examples of recent developments in methodology that are providing greater insight into the mechanisms used by brood parasitic birds and insects to fool hosts, and the exciting possibilities afforded by new study systems. The issue then explores the diversity and predictability of coevolution between brood parasites and hosts to shed light on how brood parasites evolve. Finally, it takes a more expansive view of brood parasitism research to ask how this topic can be informed by, and contribute to, our understanding of social evolution in general.”