Incubation temperature affects growth and energy metabolism in blue tit nestlings.

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Abstract

Because the maintenance of proper developmental temperatures during avian incubation is costly to parents, embryos of many species experience pronounced variation in incubation temperature. However, the effects of such temperature variation on nestling development remain relatively unexplored. To investigate this, we artificially incubated wild blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus L.) clutches at 35.0°, 36.5°, or 38.0°C for two-thirds of the incubation period. We returned clutches to their original nests before hatching and subsequently recorded nestling growth and resting metabolic rate. The length of the incubation period decreased with temperature, whereas hatching success increased. Nestlings from the lowest incubation temperature group had shorter tarsus lengths at 2 weeks of age, but body mass and wing length were not affected by temperature. In addition, nestlings from the lowest temperature group had a significantly higher resting metabolic rate compared with mid- and high-temperature nestlings, which may partly explain observed size differences between the groups. These findings suggest that nest microclimate can influence nestling phenotype, but whether observed differences carry over to later life-history stages remains unknown.

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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-651
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume178
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes