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Testing the mass-dependent predation hypothesis: in European blackbirds poor foragers have higher overwinter body reserves

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Abstract

As foraging becomes more unpredictable animals should increase their body reserves to reduce the risk of starvation. However, any increases in reserves may increase the risk of predation because extra mass probably compromises escape ability. Because of differences in foraging ability not all individuals will be affected in the same way by changes in foraging conditions. Relatively poor foragers will have more unpredictable foraging success for any given availability of food and therefore should carry larger body reserves. The mass-dependent predation hypothesis then predicts a negative correlation between levels of body reserves and foraging ability, although this may be modified by state-dependent compensation. I measured foraging rates and body masses of wintering European blackbirds, Turdus merula. Individuals with the lowest foraging rates had the largest gain in mass for the winter and had relatively high mass overall, independently of age and sex. That foraging rate determined mass rather than the reverse was demonstrated because foraging rate was independent of daily and seasonal mass change. Foraging rate within the experimental system was also independent of predation risk (as measured by distance from protective cover) and so the relation between mass and foraging rate was unlikely to have been confounded by any changes in vigilance to compensate for increased mass-dependent predation risk. The results suggest that blackbirds with high relative foraging rates have lower body reserves during the winter. Therefore there is probably a direct link between overwinter condition and fitness at least in blackbirds. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1035-1044
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume65
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

    Research areas

  • TIT PARUS-MONTANUS, RELATIVE COMPETITIVE ABILITY, INTERFERENCE COMPETITION, FATTENING STRATEGIES, SOCIAL-DOMINANCE, TURDUS-MERULA, WILLOW TITS, GREAT-TIT, FORAGING PROFICIENCY, ENERGY-EXPENDITURE

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