Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 54, Issue 2–3, pp 445–464 | Cite as

Components of uncertainty in clutch-size optimization

  • Jin Yoshimura
  • William M. Shields
Behavioural Ecology


Environmental uncertainty can be both a cause and consequence of chance variation in many of the phenotypic factors associated with the control of clutch size in birds. When such uncertainty inflates or otherwise influences the variance associated with expected reproductive success for any genotype, it will also influence the resulting phenotypic optima. Random variation that affects the evolution of clutch size optima explicitly may occur both within (intra-) and across (inter-) generations. Examples of intra-generational uncertainty could include chance variation in: (1) the quality and quantity of offspring, (2) parental quality, and (3) temporal resources like food. Inter-generational uncertainty would include chance variation in demographic and population characters. With respect to clutch (or litter) size, almost all forms of uncertainty tend to favor an optimum (genetic) strategy with a clutch that is smaller than the clutch associated with the apparent or actual maximal fitness of an individual parent. The overall effect of all the components of uncertainty can be evaluated through the integration of all this phenotypic variation: however each step of the integration is a conditional expectation of each component. Therefore, a single factor analysis may indicate a false optimum, and an integrated analysis of all components is necessary to evaluate the importance of their individual and joint effects on the adaptive evolution of clutch size.


Clutch Size Brood Size Environmental Uncertainty Parental Quality Large Clutch 
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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jin Yoshimura
    • 1
  • William M. Shields
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Applied MathematicsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environmental and Forest BiologyState University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseU.S.A.

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