Female in-nest attendance predicts the number of ectoparasites in Darwin's finch species

Sonia Kleindorfer, Lauren K. Common, Jody A. O'Connor, Jefferson Garcia-Loor, Andrew C. Katsis, Rachael Y. Dudaniec, Diane Colombelli-Négrel, Nico M. Adreani

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Selection should act on parental care and favour parental investment decisions that optimize the number of offspring produced. Such predictions have been robustly tested in predation risk contexts, but less is known about alternative functions of parental care under conditions of parasitism. The avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi) is a myasis-causing ectoparasite accidentally introduced to the Galápagos Islands, and one of the major mortality causes in Darwin's finch nests. With an 11-year dataset spanning 21 years, we examine the relationship between parental care behaviours and number of fly larvae and pupae in Darwin's finch nests. We do so across three host species (Camarhynchus parvulus, C. pauper, Geospiza fuliginosa) and one hybrid Camarhynchus group. Nests with longer female brooding duration (minutes per hour spent sitting on hatchlings to provide warmth) had fewer parasites, and this effect depended on male food delivery to chicks. Neither male age nor number of nest provisioning visits were directly associated with number of parasites. While the causal mechanisms remain unknown, we provide the first empirical study showing that female brooding duration is negatively related to the number of ectoparasites in nests. We predict selection for coordinated host male and female behaviour to reduce gaps in nest attendance, especially under conditions of novel and introduced ectoparasites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211668
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1965
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021


  • brood care
  • ectoparasite
  • incubation
  • nest guarding
  • parental care
  • Philornis downsi


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