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Do Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis choose mates based on size?


Many bird species rely on visual cues for mate choice, including those provided by body size or by the size of a body appendage. Mate choice based on size may lead to size-assortative mating, which may in turn have consequences for reproductive performance. In this study, we examined whether body size influences mate choice decisions of Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris borealis, a seabird with nocturnal activity on land. We found evidence of negative assortative mating for bill morphology (nostril height and bill length), but found no assortative mating according to body mass, tarsus length, and wing length. In addition, we investigated the influence of negative assortative mating and individual body size-related traits on reproductive performance, i.e., laying date and breeding success. We found that laying date and breeding success were not correlated with the extent of assortative mating, i.e., the assortatively mating breeders did not lay earlier and were not more likely to breed successfully. However, we found that heavier females (body mass measured during pre-laying) laid later in the season. We discuss these results in the light of possible effects of acoustic signals and foraging strategies on the mating pattern. Furthermore, we suggest that some female attributes may be crucial for breeding success in Cory’s Shearwaters.


Wählen Gelbschnabel-Sturmtaucher Calonectris borealis ihre Partner nach der Größe?

Die Partnerwahl vieler Vogelarten beruht auf visuellen Signalen. Zu solchen Signalen gehören auch die Körpergröße oder die Größe von Körperanhängen. Größenbasierte Partnerwahl kann dazu führen, dass Partner passender Körpergröße gewählt werden, was wiederum Konsequenzen für die Reproduktionsleistung haben kann. In dieser Studie untersuchten wir, ob bei Gelbschnabel-Sturmtauchern Calonectris borealis, ein Seevogel mit nächtlicher Aktivität an Land, die Körpergröße die Entscheidung für einen Partner beeinflusst. Wir fanden Belege, dass die Schnabelmorphologie (Nasenlochhöhe und Schnabellänge) nicht entscheidend ist für die Partnerwahl. Außerdem fanden wir keine Wahl des Partners nach Körpermasse, Tarsus- und Flügellänge. Darüber hinaus untersuchten wir den Einfluss von gerichteter Partnerwahl und individuellen Körpergrößen-bezogenen Eigenschaften auf die Reproduktionsleistung, d.h. Legedatum und Bruterfolg. Legedatum und Bruterfolg waren nicht korreliert mit dem Ausmaß der Bildung von zueinander passenden Paaren. Das heißt, dass Brutvögel, die am besten zusammenpassen, nicht früher legen und wahrscheinlich auch nicht erfolgreicher brüten. Dennoch konnten wir feststellen, dass schwerere Weibchen (Gewicht gemessen vor der Legephase) später in der Saison legten. Wir diskutieren diese Ergebnisse vor dem Hintergrund möglicher Effekte von akustischen Signalen und Nahrungsstrategien auf das Muster der Partnerwahl. Außerdem deuten wir, dass einige Merkmale von Weibchen für den Bruterfolg von Gelbschnabel-Sturmtauchern ausschlaggebend sein können.

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We are very grateful to Beatriz Rosa, Bela Dutra, Nuno Macedo, Carlos Pinheiro, Helder Silva, and the Pico wardens who provided help during the fieldwork. We also want to thank one anonymous referee for insightful comments on the manuscript, Ricardo Medeiros for producing the map, Justin Hart for the English revision of a previous draft of the manuscript, and Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e do Mar for funding this study as part of the project MoniAves—Monitorização Integrada de Aves Marinhas nos Açores coordinated by Ricardo Serrão Santos. C. P. Nava was funded by Estagiar L (Azores Government) and V. Neves was funded by Fundação Portuguesa para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/26657/2006). IMAR-DOP/Uaç is funded by FCT and DRCT Azores (Research Unit No 531 and Associate Laboratory No 9-ISR-Lisbon). This study was performed under the license of Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e do Mar (permission 66/2009/DRA).

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Correspondence to Cristina Perry Nava.

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Communicated by A. Hedenström.

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Nava, C.P., Kim, S., Magalhães, M.C. et al. Do Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis choose mates based on size?. J Ornithol 155, 869–875 (2014).

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  • Mate choice
  • Assortative mating
  • Body size
  • Reproductive performance
  • Calonectris borealis
  • Azores archipelago