3 years ago

Offspring desertion and parental care in the Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida

Grzegorz Neubauer, Mateusz Ledwoń
In species with biparental care, a conflict of interest can arise if one mate tries to maximize its own reproductive success at the expense of the other's. One of the mates can desert the brood to accrue a number of benefits to enhance its own fitness, leaving parental care to the remaining parent. This study is the first to describe the desertion pattern in a tern species (Sternidae). We investigated offspring desertion in the Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida, a species with semi-precocial chicks. Offspring desertion was recorded in 52% of nests prior to fledging (n = 131 nests). Females also deserted during the post-fledging period. Of the deserters, 97% were females. Desertions started when chicks were 5 days old and no longer required intense brooding. Desertions before fledging did not affect fledging success. Provisioning rates between pair members differed, and females supplied much less food than males. Female provisioning rate affected the chances of nest desertion significantly: daily desertion rates were lower when females supplied more food. After females had deserted, males increased their provisioning rates but compensated for the loss of female care only partly in two- and three-chick broods. Only in small (one-chick) broods was compensation full. We conclude that male and female Whiskered Terns adopt different reproductive strategies in the population studied here. Females invest much less in parental care than males, providing less food and deserting more frequently. Given the ready availability of food and low predation pressure, benefits appear to accrue to females that desert; selection forces may therefore not be acting against female desertion.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12496

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