The adaptiveness of defence strategies against cuckoo parasitism
Most bird species of the Eurasian Cuckoo, 'Cuculuscanorus', often display egg-discrimination behaviour butchick-rejection behaviour has never been reported.In this paper, we analyse ahost-cuckoo association in which both population dynamics andevolutionary dynamics are explored in a discrete-time model.We introduce four host types, each with their own defence behaviour, displayingeither egg or chick rejection, neither or both. We also introducefitness functions for each of these host types.Although we can characterise the long term behaviour in many cases by a simpleheuristic argument which is in accordance with common views in ecology, thereare a number of other phenomena that are not explained within thisframework: we describe stable oscillatory behaviour and coexistence oftwo defensive host types. We analyse the scenariosin which chick rejection may establish itself and give a first explanationas to why this defence trait has never been recorded in nature.We find that chick rejectors generally are at an intrinsicdisadvantage with respect to a host type that rejects eggs.Hosts benefit more from rejecting cuckoo eggs than cuckoo chicks, and ourmodel suggests that this is chiefly responsible for the absence of chickrejection. Moreover, even though it seems that chick rejection must beuseful as an extra defence, it is shown that hosts with both defencestrategies are less likely to establish themselves in competitionwith egg-rejectors than hosts which reject chicks only.These results provide insight in the extent to whichadaptations may be perfected by natural selection.