Tinbergen, J.M. and Verhulst, S. (2000) A fixed energetic ceiling to parental effort in the great tit? Journal of Animal Ecology, 69, 323-334. ISSN 0021-8790.
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.2000.00395.x
1. To elucidate the links between avian brood size, parental effort and parental investment, we measured daily energy expenditure (DEEfem), condition (residuals of mass on tarsus) and feeding rate in female great tits Parus major L. rearing broods in which the number of young was either reduced, unmanipulated or enlarged. 2. Female condition was negatively correlated with manipulation when measured at the nestling age of 8 days (measured during the day), which suggests a shift in allocation from self-feeding to chick-feeding. However, there was no detectable manipulation effect on condition measured at the nestling age of 12 days (measured during the night). Either female condition was only affected by manipulation in the early nestling phase or the females adjusted their diurnal mass trajectory in response to brood size manipulation. More detailed data are required to verify this point. There were no indications of a fitness cost associated with the condition during the day, but condition at night was positively related to winter survival. Since manipulation only affected condition during the day, there was no link between manipulation and winter survival. 3. The duration of the working day was not affected by manipulation and female feeding rate tended to flatten off with manipulated brood size. Similarly, brood reduction resulted in a lower DEEfem, whilst brood enlargement had no effect. This suggests that females worked at an energetic ceiling when rearing an unmanipulated brood. However, the level of this 'ceiling' in DEEfem was not fixed: it differed between years. This leads us to conclude that the observed ceiling was imposed by extrinsic factors (e.g. available foraging time) and not by an intrinsic factor such as maximum energy assimilation rate. We hypothesize that time limitation was the cause for the observed ceiling in energy expenditure and that the annual variation in the level of this ceiling was due to annual variation in ambient temperature. 4. A cost of reproduction was previously demonstrated in this population: brood enlargement caused a reduction in the incidence of second clutches. However, since DEEfem did not differ between control and enlarged broods, we judge it unlikely that daily energy expenditure is a general predictor for parental investment. [KEYWORDS: clutch size; condition; energy expenditure; cost of reproduction; parental effort; Parus major L. Starlings sturnus-vulgaris; kestrel falco-tinnunculus; parus-major; brood size; clutch size; blue tits; food availability; feeding frequency; field metabolism; trade-offs]
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