Elevated nest predation risk promotes offspring size variation in birds with prolonged parental care.

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Gretchen F. Wagner, Emeline Mourocq, Michael Griesser


Predation of offspring is the main cause of reproductive failure in many species, and the mere fear of offspring predation shapes reproductive strategies. Yet, natural predation risk is ubiquitously variable and can be unpredictable. Consequently, the perceived prospect of predation early in a reproductive cycle may not reflect the actual risk to ensuing offspring. An increased variance in investment across offspring has been linked to breeding in unpredictable environments in several taxa, but has so far been overlooked as a maternal response to temporal variation in predation risk. Here, we experimentally increased the perceived risk of nest predation prior to egg-laying in seven bird species. Species with prolonged parent-offspring associations increased their intra-brood variation in egg, and subsequently offspring, size. High risk to offspring early in a reproductive cycle can favour a risk-spreading strategy particularly in species with the greatest opportunity to even out offspring quality after fledging.




Behavior and Ethology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution, Life Sciences


Birds, egg size variation, nest predation, reproductive allocation, reproductive flexibility, reproductive success


Published: 2019-01-29 07:32

Last Updated: 2019-02-15 10:42

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