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Data from: Elevation and latitude interact to drive life-history variation in precocial birds: a comparative analysis using Galliformes

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Balasubramaniam, Priya; Rotenberry, John T. (2017). Data from: Elevation and latitude interact to drive life-history variation in precocial birds: a comparative analysis using Galliformes [Dataset]. Dryad.


Elevational gradients provide a powerful laboratory for understanding the environmental and ecological drivers of geographic variation in avian life-history strategies. Environmental variation across elevational gradients is hypothesized to select for a trade-off of reduced fecundity (lower clutch size and/or fewer broods) for higher offspring quality (larger eggs and/or increased parental care) in higher elevation species and populations. In birds, a focus on altricial species from north temperate latitudes has prevented an evaluation of the generality of this trade-off, and how it is affected by latitude and intrinsic factors (development mode). We performed a comparative analysis controlling for body size and phylogenetic relationships on a global data set of 135 galliform species to test (i) whether higher elevation precocial species have lower fecundity (smaller clutch and/or fewer broods) and invest more in offspring quality (greater egg mass) and (ii) whether latitude influences the traits involved and/or the trade-off, and (iii) to identify ecological and environmental drivers of life-history variation along elevational gradients. Life-history traits showed significant interaction effects across elevation and latitude: temperate higher elevation species had smaller clutches and clutch mass, larger eggs and shorter incubation periods, whereas more tropical species had larger clutches, eggs and clutch mass, and longer incubation periods as elevation increased. Number of broods and body mass did not vary with elevation or latitude. Latitudinal gradient in clutch size was observed only for low-elevation species. Significantly, an overlooked latitude-by-elevation interaction confounds our traditional view of clutch size variation across a tropical-to-temperate gradient. Across all latitudes, higher elevation species invested in offspring quality via larger eggs but support for reduced fecundity resulting from smaller clutches was found only along temperate elevational gradients; contrary to expectations, tropical high-elevation species showed increased fecundity. Variation in nest predation risk could explain differences between temperate and tropical elevational gradients, but we lack a consistent mechanism to explain why predation risk should vary in this manner. Alternatively, a resource availability hypothesis based on physical attributes that globally differ between elevation and latitude (seasonality in day length and temperature) seems more plausible.

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