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Incubation prior to clutch completion accelerates embryonic development and so hatch date for eggs laid earlier in a clutch in the Great tit, Parus major

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Abstract

The ability of parents to respond to changes in food supply within a season will have a large effect on fitness through the number and quality of chicks fledged. Great tits, Parus major, attempt to synchronise their production of chicks with a seasonal food peak, but when food supply fails, hatching asynchrony of chicks provides a mechanism by which some young can be fledged because more developed chicks outcompete their less developed siblings for the reduced parental food supply. We tested whether female great tits can potentially control the degree of hatching asynchrony by using incubation before clutch completion, so that early laid eggs develop faster and hatch sooner. The temperature of an artificial egg placed in 29 nests during the laying period was measured with data loggers, and nocturnal incubation of eggs similar to incubation post clutch completion was recorded in all nests. We then demonstrated that eggs removed from the nest for 72 hour periods prior to clutch completion hatched later than eggs remaining in the nest for the entirety of the laying period. Our results show that variable pre clutch completion incubation (which was mostly nocturnal) can lead to faster embryo development and earlier hatching, so potentially providing a mechanism for adaptive female control of degree of hatching asynchrony.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-191
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

    Research areas

  • TEMPERATURE, SIZE

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