Sexual dimorphism of egg size in the European Blackbird Turdus merula
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Recently, a number of studies have shown that female birds are able to control the sex of their progeny at the stage of the gamete. There is also some evidence that females adjust their investment in offspring depending on the sex of the embryo during egg formation. Differential maternal investment to the eggs depending on their sex is usually interpreted as an adaptive strategy, by which females can increase competitive abilities of the smaller sex, or preferentially invest towards the sex with the potentially higher fitness returns. Here, we studied variation in egg size in relation to embryo sex and laying order in the European Blackbird Turdus merula. We found male and female eggs to differ in size, with larger eggs containing male embryos, as well as a significant interaction between embryo sex and laying order. This interaction resulted from the fact that egg size increased with the laying sequence among eggs bearing females but did not change with laying order among eggs bearing males. There was no relationship between offspring sex and the laying sequence within a clutch. We suggest that sexual dimorphism in egg size recorded in the European Blackbird may reflect favouritism of the sex which may give higher fitness returns.
KeywordsEgg volume Hatching asynchrony Laying sequence Maternal effects Sex allocation
We thank S. Verhulst, D. Acevedo Seaman and anonymous reviewers for comments. This research was founded by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education in years 2003–2006, partly by DS/WBiNoZ/INoŚ/757/06 and EC Center of Excellence IBAES. J. Rutkowska is supported by The Foundation for Polish Science. This study was conducted in agreement with the current laws of Poland.
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