Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 547–554 | Cite as

Is obligate siblicidal aggression food sensitive?

  • José Luis Osorno
  • Hugh DrummondEmail author
Original Article


In avian species whose chicks show facultative siblicide, attacks increase with food deprivation. In species that show obligate siblicide, this causal relationship is not expected, but no test has been made. When we composed artificial pairs of young brown boobies, Sula leucogaster (an obligately siblicidal species), and supplied variable amounts of food to the older nestlings in each pair, food ingestion was related to the most intense form of attack, pushes, which can cause death by expelling the broodmate from the nest. The less food an older nestling ingested, the more time it spent active and the greater its rate and absolute frequency of pushes, and the more often it expelled its nestmate. Hence, deficient food provision to older nestlings could precipitate siblicidal expulsion of broodmates. Younger nestmates were aggressive too, and the more they were pushed and expelled, the more they pecked. Aggression of senior brown-booby broodmates may be flexible and food sensitive in order to optimize the timing of siblicide or to make siblicide weakly facultative.


Siblicidal aggression Brood reduction Sula leucogaster 



We are very grateful to Claudia Valderrábano, Fabio Costa, Guadalupe Hernández, Haydeé Peralta, Paula Rodríguez and Adriana Vallarino for dedicated help with fieldwork, to Miguel Rodríguez-Gironés, Bonnie Ploger, Robert Gibson and Doug Mock for comments on the manuscript, to Cristina Rodríguez Juarez for help with organization, logistics and graphics, and to Carmen Pérez for help with analyses and manuscript preparation. Logistical support was generously provided by Justino Niebla, José Luis Menéndez and the crew of the Princesa Vallarta. The experiment and observations were authorized by the Secretaría del Medioambiente y Recursos Naturales (permit number DOO.02.-10491) and carried out in accordance with Mexican law. This research was financed by CONACYT grant 31973 to H.D. and by the U.N.A.M.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Museo Nacional de Ciencias NaturalesMadridSpain

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