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J Exp Biol. 2005 Jul;208(Pt 13):2533-8.

The metabolic cost of egg production is repeatable.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, V5A 1S6, Canada.


The metabolic cost of egg production in birds (passerines) has been measured as a 16-27% increase in basal or resting metabolic rate (BMR and RMR, respectively) when comparing non-breeding values with those in egg-producing individuals. However, available data to date have been obtained in free-living birds and may thus be confounded by the effect of variable ecological conditions on non-reproductive physiological machinery (organ mass or metabolic activity) which might contribute to measured variation in RMR. Here, we show that in captive, controlled conditions, the process of egg formation induces a 22% increase in RMR in female zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata. Among individuals, variation in laying RMR is independent of egg mass, clutch size or total clutch mass. Importantly, we show that individual variation in both non-breeding and laying RMR is repeatable over periods of at least 8-10 months, i.e. individual variation in RMR remained constant over time for any given physiological state. This suggests that the metabolic cost of egg formation should respond to selection. However, we also show that in males, but not females, repeatability of RMR declines over time even when birds are kept in constant controlled conditions.

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