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Host personality predicts cuckoo egg rejection in Daurian redstarts Phoenicurus auroreus


Zhang, Jinggang et al. (2021), Host personality predicts cuckoo egg rejection in Daurian redstarts Phoenicurus auroreus, Dryad, Dataset,


In species that are subject to brood parasitism, there is typically variation in individuals’ responses to parasitic eggs, with some rejecting the eggs while others do not. Whilst some factors, such as host age (breeding experience), the degree of egg matching and the level of perceived risk of brood parasitism have been shown to influence host decisions, a lot of the variation remains unexplained. The host personality hypothesis suggests that personality traits of the host influence its response to parasitic eggs, but few studies have tested this. We investigated the relationship between two personality traits (exploration and neophobia) and a physiological trait (breathing rate) of the host, and egg-rejection behaviour in a population of Daurian redstarts Phoenicurus auroreus in northeast China. We first show that exploratory behaviour and the response to a novel object are repeatable for individual females and show strong covariation, indicating distinct personality types. We then show that fast-exploring and less neophobic hosts were more likely to reject parasitic eggs than slow-exploring and more neophobic hosts. Variation in breathing rate – a measure of the stress-response – did not affect rejection behaviour. Our results demonstrate that host personality, along the bold-shy continuum, predicts the responses to parasitic eggs in Daurian redstarts, with bold hosts being more likely to reject parasitic eggs.