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Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Vedder O.,University of Oxford | Bouwhuis S.,University of Oxford | Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | Sheldon B.C.,University of Oxford
PLoS Biology

Predictions about the fate of species or populations under climate change scenarios typically neglect adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity, the two major mechanisms by which organisms can adapt to changing local conditions. As a consequence, we have little understanding of the scope for organisms to track changing environments by in situ adaptation. Here, we use a detailed individual-specific long-term population study of great tits (Parus major) breeding in Wytham Woods, Oxford, UK to parameterise a mechanistic model and thus directly estimate the rate of environmental change to which in situ adaptation is possible. Using the effect of changes in early spring temperature on temporal synchrony between birds and a critical food resource, we focus in particular on the contribution of phenotypic plasticity to population persistence. Despite using conservative estimates for evolutionary and reproductive potential, our results suggest little risk of population extinction under projected local temperature change; however, this conclusion relies heavily on the extent to which phenotypic plasticity tracks the changing environment. Extrapolating the model to a broad range of life histories in birds suggests that the importance of phenotypic plasticity for adjustment to projected rates of temperature change increases with slower life histories, owing to lower evolutionary potential. Understanding the determinants and constraints on phenotypic plasticity in natural populations is thus crucial for characterising the risks that rapidly changing environments pose for the persistence of such populations. © 2013 Vedder et al. Source

Eikenaar C.,Institute of Avian Research | Husak J.,University of St. Thomas, Minnesota | Escallon C.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Moore I.T.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
American Naturalist

Latitudinal variation in life-history traits has been the focus of numerous investigations, but underlying hormonal mechanisms have received much less attention. Steroid hormones play a central role in vertebrate reproduction and may be associated with life-history trade-offs. Consequently, circulating concentrations of these hormones vary tremendously across vertebrates, yet interspecific geographic variation in male hormone concentrations has been studied in detail only in birds. We here report on such variation in amphibians and reptiles, confirming patterns observed in birds. Using phylogenetic comparative analyses, we found that in amphibians, but not in reptiles, testosterone and baseline corticosterone were positively related to latitude. Baseline corticosterone was negatively related to elevation in amphibians but not in reptiles. For both groups, testosterone concentrations were negatively related to breeding- season length. In addition, testosterone concentrations were positively correlated with baseline corticosterone in both groups. Our findings may best be explained by the hypothesis that shorter breeding seasons increase male-male competition, which may favor increased testosterone concentrations that modulate secondary sexual traits. Elevated energetic demands resulting from greater reproductive intensity may require higher baseline corticosterone. Thus, the positive relationship between testosterone and corticosterone in both groups suggests an energetic demand for testosterone-regulated behavior that is met with increased baseline glucocorticoid concentrations. © 2012 by The University of Chicago. Source

Schmaljohann H.,Institute of Avian Research | Naef-Daenzer B.,Swiss Ornithological Institute
Journal of Animal Ecology

1.An innate migration strategy guides birds through space and time. Environmental variation further modulates individual behaviour within a genetically determined frame. In particular, ecological barriers could influence departure direction and its timing. A shift in the migratory direction in response to an ecological barrier could reveal how birds adjust their individual trajectories to environmental cues and body condition. 2.Northern wheatears of the Greenland/Iceland subspecies Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa arrive in Western Europe en route from their West African winter range. They then undergo an endogenously controlled shift in migratory direction from north to north-west to cross a large ecological barrier, the North Atlantic. We radiotracked these songbirds departing from Helgoland, a small island in the North Sea, over an unprecedented range of their journey. 3.Here, we show that both birds' body condition and the wind conditions that they encountered influenced the departure direction significantly. Jointly high fuel loads and favourable wind conditions enabled migrants to cross large stretches of sea. Birds in good condition departed early in the night heading to the sea towards their breeding areas, while birds with low fuel loads and/or flying in poor weather conditions departed in directions leading towards nearby mainland areas during the entire night. These areas could be reached even after setting off late at night. 4.Behavioural adjustment of migratory patterns is a critical adaptation for crossing ecological barriers. The observed variation in departure direction and time in relation to fuel load and wind revealed that these birds have an innate ability to respond by jointly incorporating internal information (body condition) and external information (wind support). © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society. Source

Boonekamp J.J.,University of Groningen | Salomons M.,University of Groningen | Bouwhuis S.,University of Groningen | Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | And 2 more authors.
Ecology Letters

Optimality theories of ageing predict that the balance between reproductive effort and somatic maintenance determines the rate of ageing. Laboratory studies find that increased reproductive effort shortens lifespan, but through increased short-term mortality rather than ageing. In contrast, high fecundity in early life is associated with accelerated senescence in free-living vertebrates, but these studies are non-experimental. We performed lifelong brood size manipulation in free-living jackdaws. Actuarial senescence - the increase in mortality rate with age - was threefold higher in birds rearing enlarged- compared to reduced broods, confirming a key prediction of the optimality theory of ageing. Our findings contrast with the results of single-year brood size manipulation studies carried out in many species, in which there was no overall discernible manipulation effect on mortality. We suggest that our and previous findings are in agreement with predictions based on the reliability theory of ageing and propose further tests of this proposition. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS. Source

Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | Quinn J.L.,University College Cork | Sheldon B.C.,University of Oxford | Verhulst S.,University of Groningen

Personality and metabolic rate are predicted to show covariance on methodological and functional grounds, but empirical studies at the individual level are rare, especially in natural populations. Here we assess the relationship between exploration behaviour, an important axis of personality, and basal metabolic rate (BMR) for 680 free-living great tits Parus major, studied over three years. We find that exploration behaviour is weakly negatively related to BMR among female, but not male, birds. Moreover, we find exploration behaviour to be independent of methodological aspects of BMR measurements (e.g. activity levels, time to acclimatize) which have been suggested to be indicative of personality-related activity or stress levels during measurement. This suggests that the weak link between exploration behaviour and BMR found here is functional rather than methodological. We therefore test the hypothesis that selection favours covariance between exploration behaviour and metabolic rate, but find no evidence for correlational survival or fecundity selection. Our data therefore provide at best only very weak evidence for a functional link between personality and metabolic rate, and we suggest that studies of personality and metabolic strategies, or personality and daily energy expenditure, are required to further resolve the link between personality and metabolic rate. © 2013 The Authors. Source

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