Developmental phenotypic plasticity in embryos during incubation

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Abstract

Bird embryos depend on the attendance of parents to provide the optimal temperature for development. When
parents cannot incubate optimally, the embryos need to adjust rates of growth and modes of development to compensate. I review data on the plasticity of embryo growth in birds, and relate this to mode of incubation, climate, nest insulation, and the continuum between precocial and altricial species. I also review the effects on hatchling survival of ensuing suboptimal growth trajectories. In several precocial species that require hatching synchrony, growth rate and mode of growth in embryos can be accelerated or retarded depending on the position of the embryo in the laying sequence. Communication between embryos in eggs late in incubation conveys information on the degree of maturity and time to hatching of each. This makes it possible for embryos in eggs produced after the start of incubation to accelerate growth in order to hatch at the same time as their siblings. I evaluate the circumstances under which such acceleration (or retardation) will occur, and how this affects the mode of growth and hatchling performance and survival.

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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-665
JournalActa Zoologica Sinica
Volume52
Issue numberSupplement
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes