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Effects of intraclutch variation in egg size and hatching asynchrony on nestling development and survival in semi-precocial Herring Gulls
Bosman, D.S. (2014). Effects of intraclutch variation in egg size and hatching asynchrony on nestling development and survival in semi-precocial Herring Gulls. J. Field Ornithol. 85(4): 379-390. dx.doi.org/10.1111/jofo.12077
In: Journal of Field Ornithology. Northeast Bird-banding Association: New Ipswich. ISSN 0273-8570, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Author 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 279026 [ OMA ]

Keyword
    Larus argentatus Pontoppidan, 1763 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    adaptive; body condition; body size; breeding strategy; brood reduction;constraints; investment pattern; Larus argentatus

Author  Top 
  • Bosman, D.S., more

Abstract
    Intraclutch egg size variation may non-adaptively result from nutritional/energetic constraints acting on laying females or may reflect adaptive differential investment in offspring in relation to laying/hatching order. This variation may contribute to size hierarchies among siblings already established due to hatching asynchrony, and resultant competitive asymmetries often lead to starvation of the weakest nestling within a brood. The costs in terms of chick mortality can be high. However, the extent to which this mortality is egg size-mediated remains unclear, especially in relation to hatching asynchrony which may operate concomitantly. I assessed effects of egg size and hatching asynchrony on nestling development and survival of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), where the smaller size and later hatching of c-eggs may represent a brood-reduction strategy. To analyze variation in egg size, I recorded the laying order and laying date of 870 eggs in 290 three-egg clutches over a 3-yr period (2010–2012). I measured hatchlings and monitored growth and survival of 130 chicks from enclosed nests in 2011 and 2012. The negative effect of laying date (ß = -0.18 ± SE 0.06, P = 0.002) on c-egg size possibly reflected the fact that late breeders were either low quality or inexperienced females. The mass, size, and condition of hatchling Herring Gulls were positively related to egg size (all P < 0.0001). C-chicks suffered from increased mortality risk during the first 12 d, identified as the brood-reduction period in my study population. Although intraclutch variation in egg size was not directly related to patterns of chick mortality, I found that smaller relative egg size interactively increased differences in relative body condition of nestlings, primarily brought about by the degree of hatching asynchrony during this brood-reduction period. Thus, the value of relatively small c-eggs in Herring Gulls may lie in reinforcing brood reduction through effects on nestling body condition. A reproductive strategy Herring Gulls might have adopted to maintain a three-egg clutch, but that also enables them to adjust the number of chicks they rear relative to the prevailing environmental conditions and to their own condition during the nestling stage.

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