Adaptations resulting from co-evolutionary interactions between avian brood parasites and their hosts have been extensively studied, yet the physiological mechanisms underlying antiparasitic host defences remain little known. Prolactin, one of the main hormones involved in the regulation of avian parental behaviour, might play a key role in the orchestration of the host responses to avian brood parasitism. Given the positive association between prolactin and parental behaviour during incubation, decreasing prolactin levels are expected to facilitate egg-rejection decisions. We tested this prediction by implanting Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula) females with an inhibitor of prolactin secretion, bromocriptine mesylate, to experimentally decrease their plasma prolactin levels. Bromocriptine mesylate-implanted individuals ejected mimetic model eggs at higher rates, and showed shorter latency to egg ejection, than placebo-treated birds. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence that behavioural host defences against avian brood parasitism are mediated by prolactin.

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