Zoological Research ›› 2019, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (3): 226-230.doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2019.039

• Letters to the editor • Previous Articles     Next Articles

High egg rejection rate in a Chinese population of grey-backed thrush (Turdus hortulorum)

Can-Chao Yang1,Long-Wu Wang2,Wei Liang1(),Anders Møller3   

  1. 1. Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Ecology of Tropical Islands, College of Life Sciences, Hainan Normal University, Haikou Hainan 571158, China
    2. State Forestry Administration of China Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Conservation in Mountainous Areas of Southwest Karst, School of Life Sciences, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang Guizhou 550001, China
    3. Ecologie Systématique Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
    3. Ecologie Systématique Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
  • Received:2018-10-18 Accepted:2019-01-11 Online:2019-05-18 Published:2019-04-19
  • Contact: Wei Liang E-mail:liangwei@hainnu.edu.cn
  • Supported by:
    This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31672303 to C.Y., 31660617 to L.W. and 31472013 and 31772453 to W.L.)


Several previous studies have indicated that nest sanitation behavior is a general adaptation in altricial birds, with egg recognition capacity evolving as a specific response to interspecific brood parasitism (IBP). However, a recent study suggested an alternative hypothesis, concluding that conspecific brood parasitism (CBP) selects for egg rejection in thrushes, with IBP as a by-product. In the present study, we used a spectrophotometer to quantify egg coloration and egg mimicry and performed artificial parasitism experiments in the grey-backed thrush (Turdus hortulorum). We showed that individuals of this species rejected 100% of 12 foreign eggs, without IBP or CBP detected. In a review of previous studies, we also discuss possible explanations for the high egg rejection rate in the grey-backed thrush and suggest areas for future study.

Key words: Artificial parasitism, Conspecific brood parasitism, Egg recognition, Interspecific brood parasitism, Reflectance spectra

Figure 1

Nest site, nest, incubating female, and eggs of the grey-backed thrush (Photos by Long-Wu Wang)"

Figure 2

Experimental nest of the grey-backed thrush with a blue model egg (Photo by Long-Wu Wang)"

Figure 3

Egg reflectance of the grey-backed thrush and model eggs"

Cassey P , Ewen JG , Blackburn TM , Hauber ME , Vorobyev M , Marshall NJ . 2008a. Eggshell colour does not predict measures of maternal investment in eggs of Turdus thrushes. Naturwissenschaften, 95(8): 713–721.
Cassey P , Honza M , Grim T , Hauber ME . 2008b. The modelling of avian visual perception predicts behavioural rejection responses to foreign egg colours. Biology Letters, 4(5): 515–517.
Davies NB . 2000. Cuckoos, Cowbirds and Other Cheats. London: T. & A. D. Poyser.
Davies NB . 2011. Cuckoo adaptations: trickery and tuning. Journal of Zoology, 284(1): 1–14.
Grim T , Stokke BG . 2016. In the light of introduction: Importance of introduced populations for the study of brood parasite-host coevolution. In: Weis JS, Sol D. Biological Invasions and Animal Behaviour. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 133–157.
Grim T , Samaš P , Hauber ME . 2014. The repeatability of avian egg ejection behaviors across different temporal scales, breeding stages, female ages and experiences. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(5): 749–759.
Grim T , Samaš P , Moskát C , Kleven O , Honza M , Moksnes A , Røskaft E , Stokke BG . 2011. Constraints on host choice: why do parasitic birds rarely exploit some common potential hosts?. Journal of Animal Ecology, 80(3): 508–518.
Guigueno MF , Sealy SG . 2012. Nest sanitation in passerine birds: implications for egg rejection in hosts of brood parasites. Journal of Ornithology, 153(1): 35–52.
Hale K , Briskie JV . 2007. Response of introduced European birds in New Zealand to experimental brood parasitism. Journal of Avianal Biology, 38(2):198–204.
Hanley D , Grim T , Igic B , Samaš P , López AV , Shawkey MD , Hauber ME . 2017. Egg discrimination along a gradient of natural variation in eggshell coloration. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284(1848): 20162592.
Hanley D , Samaš P , Heryán J , Hauber ME , Grim T . 2015. Now you see it, now you don't: flushing hosts prior to experimentation can predict their responses to brood parasitism. Scientific Reports, 5: 9060.
Hansell M . 2000. Bird Nests and Construction Behaviour. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Jackson WM . 1998. Egg discrimination and egg-color variability in the northern masked weaver: the importance of conspecific versus interspecific parasitism. In: Rothstein SI, Robinson SK. Parasitic Birds and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 407–418.
Lahti DC . 2006. Persistence of egg recognition in the absence of cuckoo brood parasitism: pattern and mechanism. Evolution, 60(1): 157–168.
Liang W , Møller AP , Stokke BG , Yang C , Kovařík P , Wang H , Yao CT , Ding P , Lu X , Moksnes A , Røskaft E , Grim T . 2016. Geographic variation in egg ejection rate by great tits across 2 continents. Behavioral Ecology, 27(5): 1405–1412.
Lyon BE , JMcA Eadie . 2004. An obligate brood parasite trapped in the intraspecific arms race of its hosts. Nature, 432(7015): 390–393.
Lyon BE , JMcA Eadie . 2008. Conspecific brood parasitism in birds: A life-history perspective. The Annual Review of Ecoloyg Evolution and Systematics, 39: 343–363.
MacKinnon J , Phillipps K . 1999. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Martín-Vivaldi M , Soler JJ , Møller AP , Pérez-Contreras T , Soler M . 2012. The importance of nest-site and habitat in egg recognition ability of potential hosts of the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus . Ibis, 155(1): 140–155.
Moksnes A , Røskaft E , Braa AT . 1991. Rejection behavior by common cuckoo hosts towards artificial brood parasite eggs. The Auk, 108: 348–354.
Molina-Morales M , Martínez JG , Martín-Gálvez D , Dawson DA , Burke T , Avilés JM . 2014. Cuckoo hosts shift from accepting to rejecting parasitic eggs across their lifetime. Evolution, 68(10): 3020–3029.
Moskát C , Karcza Z , Csörgó T . 2003. Egg rejection in European blackbirds (Turdus merula): the effect of mimicry. Ornis Fennica, 80: 86–91.
Peer BD , Sealy SG . 2004. Fate of grackle (Quiscalus spp.) defenses in the absence of brood parasitism: implications for long-term parasite–host coevolution. The Auk, 121(4): 1172–1186.
Petrie M , Møller AP . 1991. Laying eggs in others’ nests: intraspecific brood parasitism in birds. Trends Ecology & Evolution, 6(10): 315–320.
Rothstein SI, Robinson SK . 1998. Parasitic Birds and Their Hosts: Studies in Coevolution. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ruiz-Raya F , Soler M , Roncalli G , Abaurrea T , Ibáñez‐Álamo JD . 2016. Egg rejection in blackbirds Turdus merula: a by-product of conspecific parasitism or successful resistance against interspecific brood parasites?. Frontiers in Zoology, 13: 16.
Samas P , Hauber ME , Cassey P , Grim T . 2014a. Host responses to interspecific brood parasitism: a by-product of adaptations to conspecific parasitism?. Frontiers in Zoology, 11: 34.
Samas P , Hauber ME , Cassey P , Grim T . 2014b. The evolutionary causes of egg rejection in European thrushes (Turdus spp.): a reply to M. Soler. Frontiers in Zoology, 11: 72.
Soler M . 2014a. No evidence of conspecific brood parasitism provoking egg rejection in thrushes. Frontiers in Zoology, 11: 68.
Soler M . 2014b. Long-term coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts. Biological Reviews, 89(3): 688–704.
Soler M , Ruiz-Castellano C , Fernández-Pinos MC , Rösler A , Ontanilla J , Pérez-Contreras T . 2011. House sparrows selectively eject parasitic conspecific eggs and incur very low rejection costs. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 65 (10): 1997–2005.
Yang C , Liu Y , Zeng L , Liang W . 2014a. Egg color variation, but not egg rejection behavior, changes in a cuckoo host breeding in the absence of brood parasitism. Ecology and Evolution, 4(11): 2239–2246.
Yang C , Wang L , Liang W , Møller AP . 2015a. Nest sanitation behavior in hirundines as a pre-adaptation to egg rejection to counter brood parasitism. Animal Cognition, 18(1): 355–360.
Yang C , Wang L , Cheng S-J , Hsu YC , Liang W , Møller AP . 2014b. Nest defenses and egg recognition of yellow-bellied prinia against cuckoo parasitism. Naturwissenschaften, 101(9): 727–734.
Yang C , Antonov A , Cai Y , Stokke BG , Moksnes A , Røskaft E , Liang W . 2012. Large hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx sparveroides parasitism on the Chinese babax Babax lanceolatus may be an evolutionarily recent host–parasite system. Ibis, 154(1): 200–204.
Yang C , Wang L , Hsu YC , Antonov A , Moksens A , Røskaft E , Liang W , Stokke BG . 2013. UV reflectance as a cue in egg discrimination in two Prinia species exploited differently by brood parasites in Taiwan. Ibis, 155(3): 571–575.
Yang C , Wang L , Cheng SJ , Hsu YC , Stokke BG , Røskaft E , Moksnes A , Liang W , Møller AP . 2015b. Deficiency in egg rejection in a host species as a response to the absence of brood parasitism. Behavioral Ecology, 26 (2): 406–415.
Yang C , Liang W , Cai Y , Shi S , Takasu F , Møller AP , Antonov A , Fossøy F , Moksnes A , Røskaft E , Stokke BG . 2010. Coevolution in action: disruptive selection on egg colour in an avian brood parasite and its host. PLoS One, 5(5): e10816.
Zhou D , Zhou C , Kong X , Deng W . 2011. Nest-site selection and nesting success of grey-backed thrushes in northeast China. Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 123(3): 492–501.
No related articles found!
Full text



[1] WEI Zhu-ying,SHAO Hua,LIU Dong-jun,BOU Shor-gan. Mytomycin Made in China Can Be Used to Isolate Embryonic Stem Cells with Ability in Contributing to Germ Lines[J]. Zoological Research, 2007, 28(6): 654 -658 .
[2] ZHANG Ying-xia,ZOU Ai-hui,MANCHU Ri-ga,ZHOU Yong-can,WANG Shi-feng. Purification and Antimicrobial Activity of Antimicrobial Protein from Brown-spotted Grouper, Epinephelus fario[J]. Zoological Research, 2008, 29(6): 627 -632 .
[3] NIE Hong,YIN Zhen,LIN Qian-xuan,FENG Xue-ying,ZHANG Jian-yu,LI Ko-yan. Morphological Characteristics of Smooth Muscle Cells Isolated from the Rat Ductus Deferens[J]. Zoological Research, 2008, 29(6): 633 -636 .
[4] LIU Zhi-zhi,YANG Jin-quan,WANG Zheng-qi,TANG Wen-qiao. Genetic Structure and Population History of Beleophthalmus petinirostris in Yangtze River Estuary and Its Southern Adjacent Regions[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(1): 1 -10 .
[5] HUO Jin-long,HUO Hai-long,MIAO Yong-wang,LI Fu-quan,LIU Li-xian,WU Ge-min,OUYAN. Genetic Diversity of 76 STR Loci in the Dahe Pig[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(1): 105 -108 .
[6] LIU Yan-hua,ZHANG Ming-hai.
[7] LI Ou,ZHAO Ying-ying,GUO Na,LU Cui-yun,SUN Xiao-wen. Effects of Sample Size and Loci Number on Genetic Diversity in Wild Population of Grass Carp Revealed by SSR[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(2): 121 -130 .
[8] TAN Min,ZHU Guang-jian,HONG Ti-yu,YE Jian-ping,ZHANG Li-biao. New Record of a Bat Species from China, Hipposideros cineraceus (Blyth, 1853)[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(2): 204 -208 .
[9] CHEN Ai-hui,LI Zhao-xia,FENG Gong-neng. Phylogenetic Relationships of the Genus Meretrix (Mollusca: Veneridae) Based on Mitochondrial COI Gene Sequences[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(3): 233 -239 .
[10] LIU Bin,ZHOU Li-zhi,WANG Wen-ge,SHEN San-bao,HAN De-min. Seasonal Dynamics of the Avian Guild Structure of Mountain Secondary Forest in Dabieshan Mountain[J]. Zoological Research, 2009, 30(3): 277 -287 .