Maternal effects on begging behaviour

An experimental demonstration of the effects of laying sequence, hatch order, nestling sex and brood size

Amanda J. Gilby, Enrico Sorato, Simon C. Griffith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Differential resource allocation by females across the laying sequence has been hypothesised as a mechanism through which females could either compensate nestlings that hatch last in asynchronous broods or promote brood reduction. In this study we artificially incubated eggs and cross-fostered offspring to manipulate nestlings' position in the hatching order, to identify whether the competitive ability of nestlings is dependent on position in the laying sequence. In both control and experimentally reversed broods, first hatched chicks had a higher survival than last hatched siblings. Yet, nestlings that hatched from eggs laid in the second half of a clutch begged with a greater intensity than nestlings hatched from eggs laid in the first half of a clutch. In natural broods, the greater begging competitiveness of nestlings from later-laid eggs led to a moderation of sibling competition and these nestlings achieved the same body size and weight as nestlings from eggs laid in the first half of the clutch. The lack of a substantial difference in the size and condition of surviving nestlings in respect to laying order suggests that differential resource allocation across the egg-laying sequence partially compensates for hatching last in asynchronous broods and reduces the negative effects of the nestling size hierarchy. The effect of laying order, brood size and experimental treatment also differed for male and female nestlings. Our study highlights the need to be aware of the complex and subtle effects of nestling sex and laying sequence when investigating genetic and environmental influences on individual fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1519-1529
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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