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Interactions between lay date, clutch size, and postlaying energetic needs in a capital breeder

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  • Édith Sénéchal
  • Joël Bêty
  • H. Grant Gilchrist

Abstract

The condition-dependent model of optimal clutch size assumes body reserves required to initiate egg production include those for subsequent breeding phases. The threshold is expected to be similar among individuals, and hence postlaying condition should be independent of clutch size and lay date. Alternatively, the cost of incubation hypothesis predicts that females laying larger clutches should secure extra resources for incubation, and the expected fitness hypothesis suggests females adjust their condition according to the anticipated fitness benefits of the clutch. In these 2 cases, postlaying condition is predicted to be positively related to clutch size. We tested these predictions in common eider (Somateria mollissima), a precocial bird that produce eggs mostly from stored lipids and partly from endogenous proteins and rely extensively on reserves to incubate. We collected females at incubation onset and measured body condition indicators. Clutch size (number of eggs laid or number found in the nest at incubation onset) was not related to postlaying fat stores but females that laid fewer eggs maintained extra protein reserves. Timing of breeding was not related to postlaying body mass or protein reserves, whereas lay date's relationship with fat stores varied annually. Our results are generally consistent with the condition-dependent model and indicate variation in postlaying condition is mostly driven by factors other than clutch size and lay date. These data are inconsistent with the cost of incubation and the expected fitness hypotheses and suggest body store differences at incubation onset are mostly caused by environmental conditions encountered by laying females. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Édith Sénéchal & Joël Bêty & H. Grant Gilchrist, 2011. "Interactions between lay date, clutch size, and postlaying energetic needs in a capital breeder," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(1), pages 162-168.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:1:p:162-168
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/beheco/arq189
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