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Cuckoos host range is associated positively with distribution range and negatively with evolutionary uniqueness

Morelli, Federico, Benedetti, Yanina, Møller, Anders Pape, Liang, Wei, Carrascal, Luis M.
The journal of animal ecology 2018 v.87 no.3 pp. 765-773
Cuculidae, breeding, brood parasitism, host range, hosts, least squares, models, parasites, phylogeny
The evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) score is a measure of phylogenetic isolation that quantifies the evolutionary uniqueness of a species. Here, we compared the ED score of parasitic and non‐parasitic cuckoo species world‐wide, to understand whether parental care or parasitism represents the largest amount of phylogenetic uniqueness. Next, we focused only on 46 cuckoo species characterized by brood parasitism with a known number of host species, and we explored the associations among ED score, number of host species and breeding range size for these species. We assessed these associations using phylogenetic generalized least squares (PGLS) models, taking into account the phylogenetic signal. Parasitic cuckoo species were not more unique in terms of ED than non‐parasitic species. However, we found a significant negative association between the evolutionary uniqueness and host range and a positive correlation between the number of host species and range size of parasitic cuckoos, probably suggesting a passive sampling of hosts by parasitic species as the breeding range broadens. The findings of this study showed that more generalist brood parasites occupied very different positions in a phylogenetic tree, suggesting that they have evolved independently within the Cuculiformes order. Finally, we demonstrated that specialist cuckoo species also represent the most evolutionarily unique species in the order of Cuculiformes.