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Data from: Does allopreening control avian ectoparasites?

Cite this dataset

Villa, Scott M.; Goodman, Graham B.; Ruff, James S.; Clayton, Dale H. (2016). Data from: Does allopreening control avian ectoparasites? [Dataset]. Dryad.


For birds, the first line of defence against ectoparasites is preening. The effectiveness of self-preening for ectoparasite control is well known. By contrast, the ectoparasite control function of allopreening—in which one birds preens another—has not been rigorously tested. We infested captive pigeons with identical numbers of parasitic lice, and then compared rates of allopreening to the abundance of lice on the birds over time. We documented a negative relationship between rates of allopreening and the number of lice on birds. Moreover, we found that allopreening was a better predictor of louse abundance than self-preening. Our data suggest that allopreening may be a more important means of ectoparasite defence than self-preening when birds live in groups. Our results have important implications for the evolution of social behaviour.

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