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Do sex-specific densities affect local survival of free-ranging great tits?


  • Stephanie P.M. Michler
  • Marion Nicolaus
  • Richard Ubels
  • Marco van der Velde
  • Christiaan Both
  • Joost M. Tinbergen
  • Jan Komdeur


Competition within sexes is expected when resources are sex specific, whereas competition between sexes can occur when similar resources are exploited. Local population density and sex ratio will determine the amount of sex-specific interactions and thus the potential degree of sex-specific competition. In contrast, high densities and the density of same-sex individuals may also positively influence survival, for example, by facilitating the exploitation of resources. The population density and sex ratio may therefore differently affect survival of males and females and thus also affect the expected fitness gains of producing a certain offspring sex. In this paper, we investigate experimentally whether and how sex-specific local densities affected sex-specific annual local survival of juvenile and adult great tits. We manipulated the density and sex ratio of fledgling great tits in 12 forest plots during 3 consecutive breeding seasons and monitored local survival until the next breeding season. We found no negative effects of the number of same- or opposite-sex competitors on juvenile local survival. Instead, local survival of juveniles of both sexes increased with the density of same-sex fledglings. Adult local survival was negatively affected by an experimental increase in density of nestlings, yet associated positively with the natural breeding pair density in a plot. Juvenile local survival related negatively to breeding pair density. Our results reveal experimental evidence for both negative effects of density on adult local survival and positive sex-specific effects on juvenile local survival, which shape sex-specific fitness prospects and might thus also alter optimal sex allocation decisions. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie P.M. Michler & Marion Nicolaus & Richard Ubels & Marco van der Velde & Christiaan Both & Joost M. Tinbergen & Jan Komdeur, 2011. "Do sex-specific densities affect local survival of free-ranging great tits?," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(4), pages 869-879.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:4:p:869-879

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