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Data from: Physiological predictors of reproductive performance in the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Cite this dataset

Fowler, Melinda A. et al. (2018). Data from: Physiological predictors of reproductive performance in the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background: It is widely assumed that variation in fitness components has a physiological basis that might underlie selection on trade-offs, but the mechanisms driving decreased survival and future fecundity remain elusive. Here, we assessed whether physiological variables are related to workload ability or immediate fitness consequences and if they mediate future survival or reproductive success. We used data on 13 physiological variables measured in 93 female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) at two breeding stages (incubation, chick-rearing), for first-and second-broods over two years (152 observations). Results: There was little co-variation among the physiological variables, either in incubating or chick-rearing birds, but some systematic physiological differences between the two stages. Chick-rearing birds had lower hematocrit and plasma creatine kinase but higher hemoglobin, triglyceride and uric acid levels. Only plasma corticosterone was repeatable between incubation and chick-rearing. We assessed relationships between incubation or chick-rearing physiology and measures of workload, current productivity, future fecundity or survival in a univariate manner, and found very few significant relationships. Thus, we next explored the utility of multivariate analysis (principal components analysis, Mahalanobis distance) to account for potentially complex physiological integration, but still found no clear associations. Conclusions: This implies either that a) birds maintained physiological variables within a homeostatic range that did not affect their performance, b) there are relatively few links between physiology and performance, or, more likely, c) that the complexity of these relationships exceeds our ability to measure it. Variability in ecological context may complicate the relationship between physiology and behavior. We thus urge caution regarding the over-interpretation of isolated significant findings, based on single traits in single years, in the literature.

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National Science Foundation, Award: Not applicable.


(49°10′N 122°50′W)
Davistead Farm
British Columbia