Eggs, incubation and hatching asynchrony in gulls

Kim, Miran (2008) Eggs, incubation and hatching asynchrony in gulls. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Birds can influence the embryonic development through incubation behaviour because avian embryos develop using parent’s body heat. Although previous studies assumed that incubation behaviour influences hatching patterns, few studies have studied the effect of incubation behaviour during egg-laying and early incubation on hatching patterns due to difficulties to determine onset of incubation during egg-laying. I investigated whether incubation behaviour during egg-laying and early incubation affects hatching patterns in gulls using measurements of mean nest attendance and daily change of nest attendance. Hatching patterns were influenced by incubation behaviour during egg-laying and early incubation behaviour. As parents spent more time in their nests, a brood hatched more synchronously and hatching success of the first-laid eggs increased when gulls laid relatively smaller first-laid eggs than other pairs. Within-clutch variation in eggshell colour related to daily change of incubation behaviour. This might relate to hormonal change during egg-laying. Increase of prolactin initiates incubation and accompanies decline of steroid hormones which relate to accumulation of eggshell pigments. Hatching patterns may also be influenced by accelerated development of last-laid eggs. When eggs were swapped to increase interval between eggs, last-laid eggs of herring gulls accelerated their development to catch up. Accelerated development may increase the survival of chicks from last-laid eggs by reducing the disadvantage of small size within a clutch. However, the costs of accelerated development seem to appear during the embryonic period. Hatching success was low in eggs with accelerated development, although there were no differences in growth rate and early nestling survival between accelerated and control last-laid eggs. Eggshell characteristics might be a factor affecting hatching patterns because they are related to embryonic metabolism. Hatching duration was not related to eggshell thickness and total functional area, but chicks which hatched from eggs with higher proportion of mammilllary cone contact area took longer to hatch. Chicks hatched from thicker eggshells showed longer “head plus bill” at hatching and grew faster in skeleton size after hatching. Diet during egg-laying and early incubation affected nest attendance. Females which consumed more marine food during egg formation had lower nest attendance during egg-laying and early incubation. This may relate to longer foraging time required to obtain marine food. In conclusion, this thesis suggests that parents can influence hatching patterns by altering incubation behaviour during egg-laying and early incubation and hatching patterns also may be affected by accelerated development of last-laid eggs, diet during egg-laying and early incubation and eggshell characteristics (proportion of mammillary cone contact area).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: asynchrony, egg colour, incubation, diet, accelerated development, stable isotopes, herring gulls, lesser black-backed gulls
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Furness, Professor Robert W. and Nager, Dr Ruedi G.
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Ms Miran Kim
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-526
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19

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