Environmental constraints can explain clutch size differences between urban and forest blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus): insights from an egg removal experiment

Pitt, Mark (2023) Environmental constraints can explain clutch size differences between urban and forest blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus): insights from an egg removal experiment. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Urban environments are expanding globally, presenting novel ecological challenges to which species might not be well adapted. Understanding whether species responses to urban living are adaptive or maladaptive is critical to predicting the future impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity. Urban breeding birds exhibit reduced reproductive investment (clutch size) compared to neighbouring non-urban populations. However, whether this reduction is an adaptive response or a result of physiological constraints is unclear. Here, I investigated the ability of urban and forest blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) to lay new eggs following an egg removal manipulation. Consistent with the constraint hypothesis, egg removal did not induce urban females to lay replacement eggs. Meanwhile, forest birds laid approximately two replacement eggs after egg removal. Additionally, I found that the size of the replacement eggs from forest females declined over the lay sequence. Hatchlings from experimental nests had a smaller body mass in both habitats, with smaller hatchlings having a reduced probability of survival. Furthermore, as urban blue tits did not lay replacement eggs, egg removal resulted in a brood reduction in the city and nestlings from urban experimental nests had higher survival than those from urban control nests. Overall, my results suggest cities place constraints on egg production in urban birds. Urban females may experience energetic or nutrient limitations that restricts egg formation and/or exacerbates the trade-off between survival and egg production. Additionally, females may be misjudging urban habitat quality, due to time constraints when laying, and produce a clutch too large to be sustained in the city.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Urbanisation, clutch size, breeding constraints, adaptation.
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Supervisor's Name: Dominoni, Dr. Davide, Boonekamp, Dr. Jelle and Capilla-Lasheras, Dr. Pablo
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83452
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2023 14:28
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2023 09:02
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83452
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83452

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