Maternal effects in the highly communal sociable weaver may exacerbate brood reduction and prepare offspring for a competitive social environment

Rene E. van Dijk*, Corine M. Eising, Richard M. Merrill, Filiz Karadas, Ben Hatchwell, Claire N. Spottiswoode

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Maternal effects can influence offspring phenotype with short- and long-term consequences. Yet, how the social environment may influence egg composition is not well understood. Here, we investigate how laying order and social environment predict maternal effects in the sociable weaver, Philetairus socius, a species that lives in massive communal nests which may be occupied by only a few to 100+ individuals in a single nest. This range of social environments is associated with variation in a number of phenotypic and life-history traits. We investigate whether maternal effects are adjusted accordingly. We found no evidence for the prediction that females might benefit from modifying brood hierarchies through an increased deposition of androgens with laying order. Instead, females appear to exacerbate brood reduction by decreasing the costly production of yolk mass and antioxidants with laying order. Additionally, we found that this effect did not depend on colony size. Finally, in accordance with an expected increased intensity of environmental stress with increasing colony size, we found that yolk androgen concentration increased with colony size. This result suggests that females may enhance the competitive ability of offspring raised in larger colonies, possibly preparing the offspring for a competitive social environment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)379-389
    Number of pages11
    JournalOecologia
    Volume171
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Feb-2013

    Keywords

    • Breeding density
    • Competition
    • Egg composition
    • Hatching asynchrony
    • Maternal investment
    • YOLK ANDROGENS
    • OXIDATIVE STRESS
    • EGG COMPOSITION
    • BIRD EGGS
    • IMMUNOCOMPETENCE HANDICAP
    • EMBRYONIC-DEVELOPMENT
    • TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
    • EUROPEAN STARLINGS
    • PARENTAL QUALITY
    • LARUS-FUSCUS

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