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Proc Biol Sci. 2000 Jan 7;267(1438):37-41.

Resource allocation between reproductive phases: the importance of thermal conditions in determining the cost of incubation.

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Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow, UK.


Changes in the resources allocated to particular stages of reproduction are expected to influence allocation to, and performance in, subsequent reproductive stages. Experimental manipulation of individual investment patterns provides important evidence that such physiological trade-offs occur, and can highlight the key environmental variables that influence reproductive costs. By temporarily altering the thermal properties of starling nests, we reduced the energetic demand of first-clutch incubation, and examined the effect of this manipulation on performance during the same and the subsequent reproductive attempts. Compared with controls, starlings investing less in incubation were more successful in fledging young, and were more likely to hatch all their eggs if a subsequent reproductive attempt was made. Our results show that incubation demands can limit reproductive success, and that resources saved during incubation can be reallocated to later stages of the same reproductive attempt and to future reproductive attempts. This study also shows that small changes in thermal environment can affect breeding success by altering the energetic demands imposed on incubating parents, independently of the effect of temperature on other environmental variables such as food supply.

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