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Temperature-mediated plasticity in incubation schedules is unlikely to evolve to buffer embryos from climatic challenges in a seasonal songbird

Citation

Cones, Alexandra; Liebl, Andrea; Houslay, Thomas; Russell, Andrew (2020), Temperature-mediated plasticity in incubation schedules is unlikely to evolve to buffer embryos from climatic challenges in a seasonal songbird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vdncjsxsj

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity is hypothesised to facilitate adaptive responses to challenging conditions, such as those resulting from climate change. However, the key predictions of this ‘rescue hypothesis’, that variation in plasticity exists and can evolve to buffer unfavourable conditions, remain rare. Here, we investigate among-female variation in temperature-mediated plasticity of incubation schedules and consequences for egg temperatures using the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) from temperate regions of inland south-eastern Australia. Given phenological advances in this seasonal breeder and thermal requirements of developing embryos (> ~25  °C, optimally ~38  °C), support for evolutionary rescue - perhaps paradoxically - requires that plasticity serves to buffer embryos more from sub-optimally low temperatures. We found significant variation in the duration of incubation bouts (mean ± SD = 27 ± 22 min) and foraging bouts (mean ± SD = 17 ± 11 min) in this maternal-only incubator. However, these patterns arose because of variation in the extent to which mothers increased on- and off-bout durations when temperatures (0-36 °C) were more favourable rather than unfavourable as required under rescue. In addition, there was a strong positive intercept-slope correlation in on-bout durations, indicating that those with stronger plastic responses incubated more at average temperatures (~19 °C). Combined, these effects reduced the functional significance of plastic responses: an individual's plasticity was neither associated with daily contributions to incubation (i.e. attentiveness) nor average egg temperatures. Our results highlight that despite significant among-individual variation in environmental-sensitivity, plasticity in parental care traits need not evolve to facilitate buffering against unfavourable conditions.

Methods

See manuscript for details

Usage Notes

Readme file is included in data sheet

Funding

Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/K005766