Is parental competitive ability in winter negatively affected by previous springs' family size?

Rienk W Fokkema, Richard Ubels, Joost M Tinbergen

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Abstract

Reproductive behavior cannot be understood without taking the local level of competition into account. Experimental work in great tits (Parus major) showed that (1) a survival cost of reproduction was paid in environments with high levels of competition during the winter period and (2) experimentally manipulated family size negatively affected the ability of parents to compete for preferred breeding boxes in the next spring. The fact that survival was affected in winter suggests that the competitive ability of parents in winter may also be affected by previous reproductive effort. In this study, we aim to investigate whether (1) such carryover effects of family size on the ability of parents to compete for resources in the winter period occurred and (2) this could explain the occurrence of a survival cost of reproduction under increased competition. During two study years, we manipulated the size of in total 168 great tit broods. Next, in winter, we induced competition among the parents by drastically reducing the availability of roosting boxes in their local environment for one week. Contrary to our expectation, we found no negative effect of family size manipulation on the probability of parents to obtain a roosting box. In line with previous work, we did find that a survival cost of reproduction was paid only in plots in which competition for roosting boxes was shortly increased. Our findings thus add to the scarce experimental evidence that survival cost of reproduction are paid under higher levels of local competition but this could not be linked to a reduced competitive ability of parents in winter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1410-1420
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Journal Article

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