Sex differences in Little Auk Alle alle parental care: transition from biparental to paternal-only care

Little Auk (Alle alle) Science Article 1


Understanding differences in male and female care in biparental care systems can help interpret the selective pressures that shape parental strategies. We examined Little Auk Alle alle parental care at a breeding colony during the chick-rearing and fledging periods by conducting observations on marked, known-sex pairs, and by examining the sex ratio of birds carrying food to the colony. Little Auks transitioned from biparental to mostly paternal-only care during late chick-rearing. Males delivered more meals and spent more time at the colony than females during late chick-rearing. Very few females were present at the colony by the end of chick-rearing and through the fledging period, and all marked parents observed accompanying their chick to sea were male. Chick mass loss prior to fledging was associated with the lack of provisioning by the female parent, rather than a reduction in feeding frequency by both parents. The occurrence of paternal-only care during and after fledging is discussed in relation to physiological, ecological and phylogenetic constraints.

Ann M. A. Harding, Thomas I. van Pelt, Jan T. Lifjeld & Fridtjof Mehlum, Ibis(2004),146, 642-651

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