Conspecific brood parasitism (CBP), whereby females lay eggs in the nests of other conspecifics, occurs in over 200 species of birds. As an alternative tactic to typical nesting, CBP expands and enriches the classic avian clutch size problem. It is an integral component of a flexible life-history strategy and, consequently, many intriguing aspects of this behavior—adaptive benefits to parasites, host-parasite interactions, population and evolutionary dynamics—can be understood best from a life-history perspective. Because parasite fitness depends on hosts, yet parasitism potentially reduces host fitness, CBP offers a novel opportunity to explore conflicts of interest within species. The intersection of life-history evolution, conflicts of interest, and frequency-dependent fitness provides much scope for theoretical exploration, and recent models indicate a complex range of evolutionary dynamics is possible, including consequences of CBP for population dynamics and conservation. CBP may also be a macroevolutionary stepping stone to diverse breeding systems.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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