University of Sussex
Harrison,_Martin_David.pdf (3.95 MB)

Using game theory to model interspecific brood parasitism in bird populations

Download (3.95 MB)
posted on 2023-06-07, 15:43 authored by Martin D Harrison
The interaction between hosts and parasites in bird populations has been studied extensively. I use game theoretic methods to model this interaction. This has been done previously but has not been studied taking into account the detailed sequential nature of this game. I introduce models allowing the host and parasite to make a number of decisions which will depend on a number of natural factors. A sequence of events follows, which is broken down into two key stages; firstly the interaction between the host and the parasite adult, and secondly that between the host and the parasite chick. The final decision involves the host choosing whether to raise or abandon the chicks that are in the nest. There are certain natural parameters and probabilities which are central to these various decisions; in particular the host is generally uncertain whether parasitism has taken place, but can assess the likelihood of parasitism based upon certain cues (e.g. how many eggs remain in its nest). I have taken elements of games which have been previously created and constructed my own models to fully describe this interaction. These parasites have different methods of parasitizing the nests of their hosts, and the hosts can in turn have different reactions to these parasites. This is later built into a model where there is more than one host nesting over a breeding season. We have a number of nesting sites and different time points in which the host can begin to nest. In the previous models the host was given the opportunity to abandon the nest. In this game the host is allowed to abandon and then restart the nesting process. The probability that the host is parasitized can be decided using a number of factors including the number of hosts laying during a given time period, the nesting site or the number of parasites during the course of the season. Using these models we are able to find situations which match those which we have seen in nature. Also the models are able to predict what natural changes such as parasitism rate or mimicry will do to the interaction. Overall I believe these models to give as good an indication of the key elements of the interaction and how they can change over time.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Mathematics Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager