Egg-spot pattern rather than egg colour affects conspecific egg rejection in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus)

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Brood parasitism could be a selective pressure on each female to have a type of egg that permits recognition. House sparrows (Passer domesticus) undergo conspecific brood parasitism and can recognise parasitic eggs. In this study, we analyse the effect of relative size in experimental parasitic eggs compared to the host eggs. We modified egg colour and the spot pattern to determine the influence of these characteristics on egg rejection. Furthermore, we examine whether egg rejection increases with “stimulus summation”. Our results show that egg rejection is not affected by relative egg size. However, changes in the spot pattern proved to exert the highest influence on egg rejection (32.4% of trials), significantly higher than when only egg colour is changed (3.8%). Therefore, our results suggest that parasitism may be a pressure favouring the maintenance of spotted eggs in house sparrow.

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