Nest sanitation-related traits have often been explained at the intraspecific level as reducing the probability of infection or detection by predators and parasites, but its evolution within the avian phylogeny is still poorly understood. We compiled detailed information of such traits for more than 400 bird species and, by means of modern comparative methodologies, we reconstructed the evolution of adults' contribution to removing their offspring's faeces and the production of faecal sacs by nestlings. Furthermore, because the functional hypotheses used to explain nest sanitation behaviour assume potential effects of brood size, body mass, nestling period and diet, we explored the association between these traits and those related to nest sanitation in a phylogenetically controlled framework. Our results suggest that parental removal of nestling faeces has driven the evolution of faecal sacs, while the ancestral states involved birds with faecal sacs removed by parents. These results support the long-held idea that faecal sacs facilitate the removal of faeces by parents. Moreover, we found that animal diets and small body sizes have favoured the evolution of faecal sacs suggesting the existence of some chemical and physical constraints in relation to the evolution of the mucous covering. Our results highlight the importance of nest sanitation in the evolution of birds and their life history characteristics. (C) 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
|Status||Published - feb.-2017|