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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Jan 22;274(1607):275-9.

How slow breeding can be selected in seabirds: testing Lack's hypothesis.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5407, USA.


The historical debate of the 1960s between group and individual selection hinged on how the slow breeding of seabirds could be explained. While this debate was settled by the ascendance of individual selection, championed by David Lack, explanations for slow breeding in seabirds remain to be tested. We examined the slowest breeding of these birds, the albatrosses and petrels (order Procellariiformes), using analyses that statistically controlled for variations in body size and phylogeny. Incubation and fledging periods appeared strongly correlated, but this turned out to be largely explained by phylogeny. Nonetheless, developmental and reproductive rates were associated with the distance to the foraging range, as predicted under the hypothesis of ecological constraints on breeding pairs, and these results were independent of body size and phylogeny. Slower breeding in these seabirds appeared associated with the rigors of farther pelagic feeding, as Lack originally hypothesized.

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