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Do purely capital layers exist among flying birds? Evidence of exogenous contribution to arctic-nesting common eider eggs

Édith Sénéchal, Joël Bêty, H. Grant Gilchrist, Keith A. Hobson and Sarah E. Jamieson
Oecologia
Vol. 165, No. 3 (March 2011), pp. 593-604
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41499753
Page Count: 12
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Do purely capital layers exist among flying birds? Evidence of exogenous contribution to arctic-nesting common eider eggs
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Abstract

The strategy of relying extensively on stored resources for reproduction has been termed capital breeding and is in contrast to income breeding, where needs of reproduction are satisfied by exogenous (dietary) resources. Most species likely fall somewhere between these two extremes, and the position of an organism along this gradient can influence several key life-history traits. Common eiders (Somateria mollissima) are the only flying birds that are still typically considered pure capital breeders, suggesting that they depend exclusively on endogenous reserves to form their eggs and incubate. We investigated the annual and seasonal variation in contributions of endogenous and exogenous resources to egg formation in eiders breeding at the East Bay colony in the Canadian Arctic. We collected prey items along with females and their eggs during various stages of breeding and used two complementary analytical approaches: body reserve dynamics and stable isotope [δ¹³C, δ¹⁵N] mixing models. Indices of protein reserves remained stable from pre-laying to post-laying stages, while lipid reserves declined significantly during laying. Similarly, stable isotope analyses indicated that (1) exogenous nutrients derived from marine invertebrates strongly contributed to the formation of lipid-free egg constituents, and (2) yolk lipids were constituted mostly from endogenous lipids. We also found evidence of seasonal variation in the use of body reserves, with early breeders using proportionally more exogenous proteins to form each egg than late breeders. Based on these results, we reject the hypothesis that eiders are pure capital layers. In these flying birds, the fitness costs of a strict capital breeding strategy, such as temporary loss of flight capability and limitation of clutch and egg size, may outweigh benefits such as a reduction in egg prédation rate.

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