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The trade-off of reproduction and survival in slow-breeding seabirds

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A trade-off between reproduction and survival is one of the most consistent empirical aspects of life-history diversification. One explanation for this interspecific pattern is evolved differences in the balance of allocation to reproduction versus individual maintenance and survival. The same pattern is expected, however, simply as a result of differences among species in body size. We tested these alternatives using original data from 44 species of albatrosses and petrels, long-lived seabirds that breed very slowly. After application of regression techniques to remove the effects of body size and phylogeny, annual reproduction and survival exhibited a significant trade-off. Our measures of reproductive effort also exhibited significant trade-offs with age at maturity, the latter strongly associated with survival. Feeding rate of chicks, success at fledging chicks, and annual chick production were also significantly associated. In conclusion, after removing the effects of body size, we found a significant trade-off of reproduction and survival, in spite of the fact that these long-lived birds lay only one egg at a time. Our examination of the pattern among life-history traits of these slow breeders and their pelagic feeding ecology provide support for the evolutionary explanation of a trade-off of reproduction and survival.

Le compromis entre la reproduction et la survie est l’un des aspects empiriques les plus cohérents de la diversification des cycles biologiques. Une explication de ce patron interspécifique est l’évolution de différences dans l’équilibre entre les allocations à la reproduction par rapport au maintien individuel et à la survie. On s’attend, cependant, à ce que le même patron soit simplement dû à des différences de taille corporelle entre les espèces. Nous testons ces explications de rechange à l’aide de données originales sur 44 espèces d’albatros et de pétrels, des oiseaux marins à grande longévité et à reproduction très étalée. Une fois retirés les effets de la taille et de la phylogénie par des techniques de régression, il existe un important compromis entre la reproduction annuelle et la survie. Il y a aussi des compromis significatifs entre nos mesures de l’effort reproductif et l’âge à la maturité et ce dernier est fortement associé à la survie. Le taux d’alimentation des petits, le succès de l’envol des petits et la production annuelle de petits sont aussi associés de manière significative. En somme, une fois les effets de la taille retirés, il existe un compromis significatif entre la reproduction et la survie, malgré le fait que ces oiseaux longévifs pondent une seul œuf à la fois. Notre examen du patron entre les traits du cycle biologiques de ces oiseaux à reproduction étalée et notre étude de leur écologie alimentaire pélagique viennent renforcer l’explication évolutive de l’existence d’un compromis entre la reproduction et la survie.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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