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Proximate causes and fitness consequences of hatching failure in lesser kestrels Falco naumanni

AuthorsSerrano, David ; Tella, José Luis ; Ursúa, Esperanza
Issue Date2005
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationJournal of Avian Biology 36: 242- 250 (2005)
AbstractHatching failure is a pervasive phenomenon in birds, but factors affecting hatchability remain poorly understood. We studied proximate causes and fitness consequences of hatching failure in a long-monitored population of the colonial lesser kestrel Falco naumanni. We investigated whether hatchability was related to clutch characteristics, parental traits, and social or environmental features. Hatching failure represents a cost for the parents in terms of immediate fitness, since it reduced both their number of young fledged and recruits in the breeding population, even when controlling for clutch size. Hatching failure showed a non-linear relationship with clutch size, clutches of four eggs showing higher levels of hatching success than larger or smaller clutches. Hatchability could therefore play a role in the evolution of optimal clutch size in this species, at least constraining the maximum number of eggs the parents can afford to incubate. Contrary to most studies, the mean volume of the clutch and the individual egg volume were negatively related to hatching failure, indicating that large eggs have thermoregulatory and/or nutritional advantages. Mean daily maximum temperature during incubation affected hatching success negatively, but only for females in poor condition. This result seems to indicate that females are reluctant to jeopardize their own condition, but instead sacrifice incubation effort by paying the costs of a lower hatching success in circumstances of high temperatures. There was no evidence that hatching failure was related to the intrinsic properties of individuals or genetic similarity between the parents as indicated by low repeatabilities of: (1) males that bred with different females, (2) females that bred with different males, and (3) pairs breeding together in different years. Neither colony size nor subpopulation size affected hatchability. All these findings show how hatching failure is simultaneously influenced by several factors acting in a complex way, which could in part explain the apparently conflicting conclusions of empirical or even experimental studies carried out to date. © Journal of Avian Biology.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/j.0908-8857.2005.03395.x
issn: 0908-8857
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