Data from: Reed warbler hosts fine-tune their defenses to track three decades of cuckoo decline
Thorogood, Rose; Davies, Nick B.; Davies, Nicholas B. (2013), Data from: Reed warbler hosts fine-tune their defenses to track three decades of cuckoo decline, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6c2s3
Interactions between avian hosts and brood parasites can provide a model for how animals adapt to a changing world. Reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) hosts employ costly defenses to combat parasitism by common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus). During the last three decades cuckoos have declined markedly across England, reducing parasitism at our study site (Wicken Fen) from 24% of reed warbler nests in 1985 to 1% in 2012. Here we show with experiments that host mobbing and egg rejection defenses have tracked this decline in local parasitism risk: the proportion of reed warbler pairs mobbing adult cuckoos (assessed by responses to cuckoo mounts and models) has declined from 90% to 38%, and the proportion rejecting non-mimetic cuckoo eggs (assessed by responses to model eggs) has declined from 61% to 11%. This is despite no change in response to other nest enemies or mimetic model eggs. Individual variation in both defenses is predicted by parasitism risk during the host's egg-laying period. Furthermore, the response of our study population to temporal variation in parasitism risk can also explain spatial variation in egg rejection behavior in other populations across Europe. We suggest that spatial and temporal variation in parasitism risk has led to the evolution of plasticity in reed warbler defenses.
Wicken Fen Cambridge UK