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Density dependence of clutch size and offspring sex ratio in starling colonies

Citation

Rubalcaba, Juan; Polo, Vicente (2022), Density dependence of clutch size and offspring sex ratio in starling colonies, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.p5hqbzkrh

Abstract

Optimal life-history theory predicts that individuals should adjust both the number and the sex of their offspring to maximize fitness in response to environmental and social factors such as breeding density. While reductions in optimal clutch size are well-studied in birds, the evidence for sex ratio adjustments is still equivocal and, so far, we lack a thorough understanding of how these strategies interact to maximize fitness. Here, we investigate how breeding density simultaneously affects brood sex ratio and clutch size in a sexually dimorphic and polygynous bird. We tested the prediction that mothers breeding at a higher density lay smaller clutches and overproduce daughters, the sex with less variable fitness returns and that disperses further away from their natal territory. We distributed nest boxes at either a high (HD) or a low density (LD) and monitored clutch sizes and sex ratios during five years in a wild breeding colony of spotless starlings. While mothers breeding in HD nests produced more daughters than those breeding in LD nests, the density dependence of clutch size varied among years, with a tendency to lay smaller clutches in HD nests. Our results suggest that mothers consistently adjust offspring sex ratio in response to breeding density, whereas adjustments in clutch size varied in a more complex way. These results support the role of sex allocation strategies in response to density and show that further theoretical and empirical research is required to understand the interaction between clutch size and sex ratio adjustments in animals.

Funding

Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness