Sexual dimorphism and growth trade-offs in Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus nestlings
The outcome of sibling competition for food is often determined by variation in body size within the brood and involves trade-offs; traits that enhance competitive ability within the nest may be developed at the expense of traits that enable effective flight at fledging, or vice versa. We quantified growth of skeletal, body mass and feather traits in male and female Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus nestlings. Males were significantly heavier, had longer tarsi and tended to have greater head–bill lengths than females, whereas females were similar to males in wing flight feather growth. These differences in growth may result from sexual differences in selection of the traits. Females are likely to prioritize feather growth to facilitate synchronized fledging with the rest of the brood, and to enhance escape from predators. We suggest that males are heavier and develop longer tarsi because body size is an important determinant of male reproductive success.