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Causes and consequences of hatching asynchrony in birds Przyczyny i skutki niejednoczesnego wylegu ptakow


, : Causes and consequences of hatching asynchrony in birds Przyczyny i skutki niejednoczesnego wylegu ptakow. Wiadomosci Ekologiczne, 431: 23-37

Most altricial bird species begin to incubate their eggs before the clutch is complete. Since embryos require constant incubation period, such laying pattern results in the asynchronous hatching of the young and a brood with nestlings that differ in age and size (Fig. 1). Here I review recent studies of hatching asynchrony and provide the conceptual framework, on which to asses the hypothesis concerning its functional significance and evidence used to support, or refute them. I start with the "brood reduction" hypothesis, as originally proposed by David Lack (1947, 1954). Lack suggested that hatching asynchrony is an adaptation to counter stochastic variation in feeding conditions, by enabling the efficient trimming of brood size downward, if food proves short. This, however, was questioned by Clark and Wilson (1981), who noted that the degree of asynchrony affects the time, in which a nest is at risk from predation and suggested that selection favors those patterns of asynchrony that minimize that risk ("nest failure" hypothesis). It is also likely that hatching patterns affects total daily energy requirements of the clutch, and evolved to minimize the energetic stress on parents (the "peak load reduction" hypothesis, Fig. 2). Hatching asynchrony can also be the outcome of the sexual conflict over the parental investment: females have to invest more to keep less competitive, late-hatching nestlings alive ("sexual conflict" hypothesis). Furthermore, it is possible that hatching asynchrony is beneficial when the probability of hatching failure is high ("insurance offspring" hypothesis). Finally, asynchronous hatching can result from environmental constraints on egg laying. Studies on hatching patterns have routinely produced ambiguous results. This is mainly because none of the hypothesis put forward to date may fully account for hatching asynchrony, possibly because each of these hypothesis emphasizes single factors, while neglecting others.

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