No apparent trade-off between the quality of nest grown feathers and time spent in the nest in an aerial insectivore, the tree swallow
Taff, Conor et al. (2022), No apparent trade-off between the quality of nest grown feathers and time spent in the nest in an aerial insectivore, the tree swallow, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.t76hdr835
Life history theory provides a framework for understanding how trade-offs generate negative trait associations. Among nestling birds, time spent in the nest, risk of predation, and lifespan covary, but some associations are only found within species while others are only observed between species. A recent comparative study suggests that allocation trade-offs may be alleviated by disinvestment in ephemeral traits, such as nest-grown feathers, that are quickly replaced. However, direct resource allocation trade-offs cannot be inferred from inter-specific trait-associations without complementary intra-specific studies. Here, we asked whether there is evidence for a within-species allocation trade-off between feather quality and time spent in the nest in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Consistent with the idea that ephemeral traits are deprioritized, nest-grown feathers had lower barb density than adult feathers. However, despite substantial variation in fledging age among nestlings, there was no evidence for a negative association between time in the nest and feather quality. Furthermore, accounting for differences in resource availability by considering provisioning rate and a nest predation treatment did not reveal a trade-off that was masked by variation in resources. Our results are most consistent with the idea that the inter-specific association between development and feather quality arises from adaptive specialization, rather than from a direct allocation trade-off.
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National Science Foundation, Award: 1457251
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Award: D17AP00033