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A Theoretical Investigation of the Effect of Latitude on Avian Life Histories

John M. McNamara, Zoltán Barta, Martin Wikelski and Alasdair I. Houston
The American Naturalist
Vol. 172, No. 3 (September 2008), pp. 331-345
DOI: 10.1086/589886
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/589886
Page Count: 15
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A Theoretical Investigation of the Effect of Latitude on Avian Life Histories
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Abstract

Abstract: Tropical birds lay smaller clutches than birds breeding in temperate regions and care for their young for longer. We develop a model in which birds choose when and how often to breed and their clutch size, depending on their foraging ability and the food availability. The food supply is density dependent. Seasonal environments necessarily have a high food peak in summer; in winter, food levels drop below those characteristic of constant environments. A bird that cannot balance its energy needs during a week dies of starvation. If adult predation is negligible, birds in low seasonal environments are constrained by low food during breeding seasons, whereas birds in high seasonal environments die during the winter. Low food seasonality selects for small clutch sizes, long parental care times, greater age at first breeding, and high juvenile survival. The inclusion of adult predation has no major effect on any life‐history variables. However, increased nest predation reduces clutch size. The same trends with seasonality are also found in a version of the model that includes a condition variable. Our results show that seasonal changes in food supply are sufficient to explain the observed trends in clutch size, care times, and age at first breeding.

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