Research Topic

Evolution and Function of Acoustic and Visual Signals in Avian Brood Parasitism

About this Research Topic

Avian obligate brood parasites lay eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving the host to care for the parasitic young. Parasitic nestlings need to tune in to the parent-offspring communication to elicit provisioning by the host and deal with the within-brood competition. During this communication, the generation of ...

Avian obligate brood parasites lay eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving the host to care for the parasitic young. Parasitic nestlings need to tune in to the parent-offspring communication to elicit provisioning by the host and deal with the within-brood competition. During this communication, the generation of appropriate acoustic and visual signals may enhance the parasite’s success. However, the reproductive costs imposed on hosts may provoke anti-parasitic defenses against parasites, which in turn provoke parasitic adaptation in parasites, forming a classical coevolutionary process. During such coevolution, brood parasites evolve visual mimicry, such as mouth pattern mimicry on host nestlings, and acoustic mimicry, such as begging call mimicry in host nestlings. Acoustic signals play an important role not only in bird communication but also in parasite-host systems. Under selection from brood parasitism, hosts have evolved acoustic signals to transmit parasite-related information to conspecifics and heterospecifics, which could recruit peers to chase away brood parasites or enhance their nest defense.

Visual signals between brood parasites and their hosts have received numerous studies, which have formed systematic theories. In comparison, the coevolution of acoustic signals between brood parasites and their hosts, which are also important in birds, have received considerably less attention. This Research Topic will investigate different aspects of parasitic and anti-parasitic adaptations on both visual and acoustic signals between brood parasites and their hosts through systematic studies. The visual signals include parasitic or anti-parasitic adaptations by visual cue, while the acoustic signals include begging call mimicry by parasite nestlings, vocal mimicry by parasite adults, production and communication of alarm or mobbing call toward parasite by host adults, vocal communication against parasite between host parents and offspring, and vocal recognition of parasite nestlings by host adults. By elucidating these problems, this Research Topic will improve our knowledge of the role of both visual and acoustic signals in avian brood parasitism.

We welcome the submission of original research and review articles focused on parasitic adaptations of brood parasites or anti-parasitic adaptation of hosts with reference to both visual and acoustic signals. In particular, we encourage submissions related to the themes outlined below, as they refer to aspects that have not yet been addressed or have received relatively little attention:
• Species or host race specialization of begging call mimicry in parasite nestlings;
• Vocal traits of parasite adults and their function in parasitic adaptation;
• Vocal recognition of parasite nestlings by hosts;
• Adaptation to the communication system between host parents and offspring by parasite nestlings;
• Social learning of vocal signals against parasites between conspecific individuals in a host species or between different host species;
• Evolutionary history of similar vocal traits between parasites and hosts.


Keywords: avian brood parasitism, acoustic mimicry, brood parasite, vocal communication, host, visual signals


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 April 2021 Manuscript
15 June 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 April 2021 Manuscript
15 June 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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