Interspecific brood parasitism in blackbirds (Icterinae): a phylogenetic perspective

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Science  03 Jan 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5040, pp. 77-79
DOI: 10.1126/science.1553533


An 852-base pair region of the cytochrome-b gene was sequenced for the brood parasitic cowbirds and 20 additional taxa of the New World blackbirds (Icterinae). The goal of the study was to determine (i) whether interspecific brood parasitism is multiply derived within the assemblage and (ii) the nature of the evolutionary transformation between various forms of interspecific brood parasitism. Cladistic analysis of the sequence data indicates that brood parasitism evolved a single time within the Icterinae. The primitive form of interspecific brood parasitism in this assemblage is host-specificity, with host-generality representing the derived condition.