Förlag: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
In Hungary an unusually high rate of parasitism on the great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus by the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus has been maintained for at least the last one hundred years. We evaluated parasitism rate, antiparasite defence and genetic differentiation among Hungarian great reed warblers at three sites located 40-130 km from each other, where hosts suffered from a high (41-68%), moderate (11%), and almost no (< 1%) parasitism. We were especially interested in whether the level of antiparasite defence was related to the local parasitism rate, and, if not, to understand why. There was no difference among the three sites in the responses to experimental parasitism by non-mimetic model cuckoo eggs (rejection rate 71-82%), which can be explained by strong gene flow between populations: there was low level of philopatry and no genetic differentiation in the region. Reproductive success of the host in the heavily parasitised site was about 54% of that in the unparasitised site, indicating that long-term persistence of host populations in highly exploited areas depends on continuous immigration.