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Ecological constraints on breeding system evolution: the influence of habitat on brood desertion in Kentish plover.

  • Academic Journal
  • Journal of Animal Ecology; Jan2006, Vol. 75 Issue 1, p257-265, 9p, 2 Charts, 5 Graphs
  • 1. One of the fundamental insights of behavioural ecology is that resources influence breeding systems. For instance, when food resources are plenty, one parent is able to care for the young on its own, so that the other parent can desert and became polygamous. We investigated this hypothesis in the context of classical polyandry when females may have several mates within a single breeding season, and parental duties are carried out largely by the male. 2. We studied a precocial wader, the Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus, that exhibits variable brood care such that the chicks may be raised by both parents, only by the female or, more often, only by the male. The timing of female desertion varies: some females desert their brood at hatching of the eggs and lay a clutch for a new mate, whereas other females stay with their brood until the chicks fledge. Kentish plovers are excellent organisms with which to study breeding system evolution, as some of their close relatives exhibit classical polyandry (Eurasian dotterel Eudromias morinellus, mountain plover Charadrius montanus), whereas others are polygynous (northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus). 3. Kentish plovers raised their broods in two habitats in our study site in southern Turkey: saltmarsh and lakeshore. Food intake was higher on the lakeshore than in the saltmarsh as judged from feeding behaviour of chicks and adults. As the season proceeded and the saltmarsh dried out, the broods moved toward the lakeshore. 4. As the density of plovers increased on lakeshore, the parents spent more time defending their young, and female parents stayed with their brood longer on the lakeshore. 5. We conclude that the influence of food abundance on breeding systems is more complex than currently anticipated. Abundant food resources appear to have profound implications on spatial distribution of broods, and the social interactions between broods constrain female desertion and polyandry. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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