Does the cost of incubation set limits to clutch size in common eiders Somateria mollissima?
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We examined the effect of natural clutch size on the cost of incubation in a population of common eiders Somateria mollissima nesting in Tromsø, northern Norway. The body condition of females at day 5 in the incubation period was not related to clutch size (3–6 eggs), but females incubating large clutches lost more mass and had a lower body condition at day 20 in the incubation period than females incubating small clutches. Females incubating large clutches had a slightly shorter incubation period and a lower egg predation rate. The results do not support the hypothesis that the female's ability to produce eggs is the only ultimate control of clutch size in eider. Instead the results suggest that there may be an interaction between the allocation of body reserves to eggs and incubation, and that females producing large clutches allocate more of their body reserves to incubation than females producing small clutches, in order to shorten the incubation period and to minimise the risk of predation on eggs.
Key wordsClutch size Cost of incubation Parental effort Nest predation Mass loss
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