Rearing conditions determine offspring survivalindependent of egg quality: a cross-foster experimentwith OystercatchersHaematopus ostralegus

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) Science Article 3


Variation in rearing conditions, due either to parental or to environmental quality, can result in offspring of different quality (e.g. body condition, immune function). However, evidence is accumulating that egg size and composition can also affect offspring quality. In Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus , high-quality rearing conditions result in a higher quantity as well as quality of offspring. This is thought to be caused by increased parental food provisioning to the chicks in high-quality environments. However, variation in egg quality between rearing conditions could also affect the quantity and quality of offspring. Determining the mechanism and ontogeny of quality differences is important in unravelling the causes of variation in reproductive success. To disentangle the effects of egg quality, and quality of the rearing conditions, on the future survival of offspring, we cross-fostered complete clutches between nests. When reared under conditions of similar environmental quality, chicks originating from eggs laid in low-quality environments survived as well as chicks originating from eggs laid in a high-quality environment. However, chicks reared in high-quality environments survived twice as long as chicks reared in low-quality environments, independent of the environmental quality in which the eggs were laid. This suggests that variation in the future survival of offspring is primarily caused by differences in environmental and/or parental quality, with no clear effect of egg quality (size).

Martijn Van De Pol, Trineke Bakker, Dirk-Jan Saaltink and Simon Verhulst, Ibis(2006), 148, 203-210

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