Adult mortality probability and nest predation rates explain parental effort in warming eggs with consequences for embryonic development time

The American Naturalist
By: , and 

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Abstract

Parental behavior and effort vary extensively among species. Life-history theory suggests that age-specific mortality could cause this interspecific variation, but past tests have focused on fecundity as the measure of parental effort. Fecundity can cause costs of reproduction that confuse whether mortality is the cause or the consequence of parental effort. We focus on a trait, parental allocation of time and effort in warming embryos, that varies widely among species of diverse taxa and is not tied to fecundity. We conducted studies on songbirds of four continents and show that time spent warming eggs varies widely among species and latitudes and is not correlated with clutch size. Adult and offspring (nest) mortality explained most of the interspecific variation in time and effort that parents spend warming eggs, measured by average egg temperatures. Parental effort in warming eggs is important because embryonic temperature can influence embryonic development period and hence exposure time to predation risk. We show through correlative evidence and experimental swapping of embryos between species that parentally induced egg temperatures cause interspecific variation in embryonic development period. The strong association of age-specific mortality with parental effort in warming eggs and the subsequent effects on embryonic development time are unique results that can advance understanding of broad geographic patterns of life-history variation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Adult mortality probability and nest predation rates explain parental effort in warming eggs with consequences for embryonic development time
Series title The American Naturalist
DOI 10.1086/681986
Volume 186
Issue 2
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher The University of Chicago Press
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 14 p.
First page 223
Last page 236