Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Intraspecific variation in incubation behaviors along a latitudinal gradient is driven by nest microclimate and selection on neonate quality

Citation

Lundblad, Carl; Conway, Courtney (2021), Data from: Intraspecific variation in incubation behaviors along a latitudinal gradient is driven by nest microclimate and selection on neonate quality, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h44j0zpj9

Abstract

The strategies by which animals allocate reproductive effort across their lifetimes vary, and the causes of variation in those strategies are actively debated. In birds, most research has focused heavily on variation in clutch size and fecundity, but incubation behavior and other functionally related traits have received less attention. Variation in incubation period duration is notable because time-dependent sources of clutch mortality should impose strong directional selection to minimize the incubation period. However, life-history theory predicts multiple mechanisms by which inter- and intraspecific variation in incubation behaviors may be adaptive.

We conducted one of the first studies of intraspecific latitudinal variation in avian incubation behaviors across a large portion of a single species’ range. We used motion-activated nest cameras inside Burrowing Owl nests at 5 study sites to quantify variation in daily nest attentiveness, cumulative nest attendance, and incubation period duration. We tested predictions of two alternative hypotheses that have been proposed to explain variation in incubation periods: the parental risk tolerance hypothesis and the neonate quality hypothesis.

Daily nest attentiveness, cumulative nest attendance, and incubation period duration in Burrowing Owls were all positively correlated with latitude, and these geographic patterns reflected predicted life-history trade-offs. Burrowing Owls reduced their daily nest attentiveness at low latitudes and on days when the average nest temperature was within the range that is optimal for embryo development. Further, longer incubation periods were most strongly associated with greater cumulative nest attendance instead of reduced daily nest attentiveness.

These results support predictions of the neonate quality hypothesis: longer incubation periods result from stronger selection on neonate quality rather than selection to reduce reproductive effort in response to low extrinsic mortality risk. However, some owls facultatively reduced their daily nest attentiveness, and this result supports the general hypothesis that incubation decisions reflect a trade-off between reproduction and self-maintenance, and that the optimal solution to that trade-off varies systematically in response to latitudinal gradients in adult mortality.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: DGE-1143953

Sigma Xi, Award: G2016100191857886

The Audubon Society Whittell Fund

Idaho Chapter of The Wildlife Society

The Audubon Society Whittell Fund

Idaho Chapter of The Wildlife Society