The role of the mating system and intraspecific brood parasitism in the costs of reproduction in a passerine bird

Abstract

Limited resources trigger trade-offs in resource allocation. Reproduction is one of the most demanding activities in terms of energy, and costs related to reproduction can be apparent either as reduced future reproduction or as survival. However, costs are not always detected, because individual heterogeneity in quality and resource acquisition may explain variation in costs among individuals. We conducted a comprehensive study in spotless starlings (Sturnus unicolor) nesting in Central Spain to determine whether costs of reproduction could be detectable in the short and/or long term and whether prenatal or postnatal investment were driving these costs. We took into account the life history of the species, where egg volume is highly repeatable, males are facultatively polygynous, and intraspecific brood parasitism occurs. Females with a high reproductive effort in a breeding event also had a high reproductive effort in the second event of the season. The mating system and maternal age were reliable predictors of breeding success within a breeding event: monogamous and primary females, as well as older mothers, raised more nestlings than secondary females and 1-year-old females, respectively. However, when high-investing females suffered intra-brood parasitism in 1 year, we found a negative correlation between current and future reproduction. These results suggest that, under some circumstances, females are able to skip the short-term costs of reproduction, but when extra effort is added, trade-offs arise. While most studies have focused on different aspects of individual quality on costs, the ecological context seems to represent an important component that should be taken into account.

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Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to all the volunteers and students who helped to collect data over the years. The project was funded by several consecutive grants from the Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad to DG (CGL2014-55577R, CGL2011-26318). RM was supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie action within the Horizon 2020 Initiative from the European Commission. JM was supported by an FPI Grant (BES-2009-021383) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) during 2012–2013. LP-R was supported by a postdoctoral contract from MINECO through the Severo Ochoa Programme for Centres of Excellence in Research, Development, and Innovation (SEV-2012-0262). All the protocols comply with the Ethical Committee for animal experimentation of the Comunidad de Madrid (permission PROEX 203/15). Permission to work in the area was granted by both the Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and the Ayuntamiento de Soto del Real. This study is a contribution to the research developed at the “El Ventorrillo” field station.

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RM originally formulated the idea, RM, JM, LP-R, and DG developed methodology and conducted fieldwork, RM performed statistical analyses, and RM, JM, LP-R, APM, and DG wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Raquel Monclús.

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All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Communicated by Hannu J. Ylonen.

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Monclús, R., Muriel, J., Pérez-Rodríguez, L. et al. The role of the mating system and intraspecific brood parasitism in the costs of reproduction in a passerine bird. Oecologia 185, 629–639 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3977-2

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Keywords

  • Egg volume
  • Prenatal investment
  • Postnatal investment
  • Reproduction
  • Spotless starling
  • Sturnus unicolor