Maternal compensation for hatching asynchrony in the collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis

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Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the adaptiveness of hatching asynchrony for the parents, but delayed hatching is generally detrimental for the late hatched young. These offspring often experience competitive disadvantage and delayed development. If hatching asynchrony has a reason other than producing competitive differences among offspring, it would be advantageous, not only for the offspring but even for the parents, to compensate for its detrimental effects. In some species, increasing investment into later laid eggs has been reported and discussed as a compensation mechanism, but its effect on nestling growth and fledging size has not been examined in details. In this study we investigated nestling growth and size at fledging in terms of body mass and length of primaries in relation to the accurate laying and hatching order in collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis broods. We found that females laid larger eggs at the end of the laying sequence, and this helped to decrease the disadvantages for the last offspring. The last offspring had lower body mass growth rate and fledged with shorter feathers, but in both cases the larger the last egg was, the smaller the lag of the offspring was. We conclude, that even if females were not able to fully compensate for the detrimental effects of hatching asynchrony, larger eggs may improve the survival prospects of late hatched nestlings.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2005

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