Parental care mitigates carry-over effects of poor early conditions on offspring growth

Behavioral Ecology
By:  and 



Poor developmental conditions can have long-lasting negative effects on offspring phenotypes, but impacts often differ among species. Contrasting responses may reflect disparities in experimental protocols among single-species studies or inherent differences among species in their sensitivity to early conditions and/or ability to mitigate negative impacts. We used a common experimental protocol to assess and compare the role of parental care in mitigating effects of poor early conditions on offspring among 4 sympatric bird species in the wild. We experimentally induced low incubation temperatures and examined effects on embryonic developmental rates, hatching success, nestling growth rates, and parental responses. We examined the generality of these effects across 4 species that differ in their phylogenetic history, breeding ecology, and life histories. We found that cooling led to delayed hatching in all species, but carry-over effects on offspring differed among species. Parents of some but not all species increased their offspring provisioning rates in response to experimental cooling with critical benefits for offspring growth rates. Our study shows for the first time that species exhibit clear differences in the degree to which they are affected by poor early conditions. Observed differences among species demonstrate that parental care is a critical mechanism for mitigating potential negative effects on offspring and suggest that parental responses may be constrained to varying degrees by ecology and life histories.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Parental care mitigates carry-over effects of poor early conditions on offspring growth
Series title Behavioral Ecology
DOI 10.1093/beheco/arx082
Volume 28
Issue 4
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Oxford Academic
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 7 p.
First page 1176
Last page 1182
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