1. Latitudinal variation in clutch sizes of birds is a well described, but poorly understood pattern. Many hypotheses have been proposed, but few have been experimentally tested, and none have been universally accepted by researchers. 2. The nest size hypothesis posits that higher nest predation in the tropics favours selection for smaller nests and thereby constrains clutch size by shrinking available space for eggs and/or nestlings in the nest. We tested this hypothesis with an experiment in a tropical forest and a comparative study between temperate and tropical field sites. 3. Specifically, we tested if: (i) predation increased with nest size; (ii) tropical birds had smaller nests controlled for body size; and (iii) clutch size was explained by nest size controlled for body size. 4. Experimental swapping of nests of different sizes showed that nest predation increased with nest size in the tropical site. Moreover, nest predation rates were higher in species with larger nests in both sites. However, nest size, corrected for body mass and phylogeny, did not differ between sites and was not related to clutch size between sites. 5. Hence, nest predation can exert selection on nest size as predicted by the hypothesis. Nest size increased with adult body mass, such that adult size might indirectly influence reproductive success through effects on nest size and nest predation risk. Ultimately, however, selection from nest predation on nest size does not explain the smaller clutch sizes typical of the tropics.
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Can selection on nest size from nest predation explain the latitudinal gradient in clutch size?