Island biogeography and the reproductive ecology of great tits Parus major
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Island biogeography theory has contributed greatly to both theoretical and applied studies of conservation biology (e.g., design of nature reserves, minimum viable population sizes, extinction risk) and community composition. However, little theoretical and empirical work has addressed how island isolation and size affect reproductive ecology. We investigated the reproductive ecology of great tits (Parus major) on one offshore and one nearshore island, as well as on the Danish mainland. Tits breeding on the offshore island bred later, laid smaller clutches, and laid larger eggs than those on the nearshore island and mainland. In addition, the level of ectoparasite infestation in nests was highest on the offshore island, intermediate on the nearshore island, and lowest on the mainland. These insular effects may occur due to lower food abundance on islands, to density-dependent effects, or to effects related to low genetic diversity within island populations. Whatever the cause, the results emphasize that future studies of forest fragmentation/population isolation should consider not only gross measures of reproductive success, but also fine-scale measures such as clutch size, timing of breeding, and parasite prevalence.
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