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Experimentally increased nest temperature affects body temperature, growth and apparent survival in blue tit nestlings

Author:
  • Fredrik Andreasson
  • Andreas Nord
  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
Publishing year: 2018-02-19
Language: English
Pages:
Publication/Series: Journal of Avian Biology
Volume: 49
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Abstract english

The thermal environment experienced by birds during early postembryonic development may be an important factor shaping growth and survival. However, few studies have directly manipulated nest temperature (T n) during the nestling phase, and none have measured the consequences of experimental heat stress on nestlings’ body temperature (T b). It is therefore not known to what extent any fitness consequences of development in a thermally challenging environment arise as a direct, or indirect, effect of heat stress. We, therefore, studied how experimentally increased T n affected T b in 8–12 d old blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus nestlings, to investigate if increased thermoregulatory demands to maintain normothermic T b influenced nestling growth and apparent long-term survival. Nestlings in heated nest-boxes had significantly higher T b compared to unheated nestlings during most of the experimental period. Yet, despite facing T n  50°C (as measured in the bottom of the nest cup below the nestlings), the highest nestling T b recorded was 43.8°C with nestlings showing evidence of controlled facultative hyperthermia without any increased nestling mortality in heated nests. However, body mass gain was lower in these nestlings compared to nestlings from control nest-boxes. Contrary to our prediction, a larger proportion of nestlings from heated nest-boxes were recaptured during their first winter, or subsequently recruited into the breeding population as first- or second-year breeders. This result should, however, be treated with caution because of low recapture rates. This study highlights the importance of the thermal environment during nestling development, and its role in shaping both growth patterns and possibly also apparent survival.
The thermal environment experienced by birds during early postembryonic development may be an important factor shaping growth and survival. However, few studies have directly manipulated nest temperature (T n) during the nestling phase, and none have measured the consequences of experimental heat stress on nestlings’ body temperature (T b). It is therefore not known to what extent any fitness consequences of development in a thermally challenging environment arise as a direct, or indirect, effect of heat stress. We, therefore, studied how experimentally increased T n affected T b in 8–12 d old blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus nestlings, to investigate if increased thermoregulatory demands to maintain normothermic T b influenced nestling growth and apparent long-term survival. Nestlings in heated nest-boxes had significantly higher T b compared to unheated nestlings during most of the experimental period. Yet, despite facing T n  50°C (as measured in the bottom of the nest cup below the nestlings), the highest nestling T b recorded was 43.8°C with nestlings showing evidence of controlled facultative hyperthermia without any increased nestling mortality in heated nests. However, body mass gain was lower in these nestlings compared to nestlings from control nest-boxes. Contrary to our prediction, a larger proportion of nestlings from heated nest-boxes were recaptured during their first winter, or subsequently recruited into the breeding population as first- or second-year breeders. This result should, however, be treated with caution because of low recapture rates. This study highlights the importance of the thermal environment during nestling development, and its role in shaping both growth patterns and possibly also apparent survival.

Keywords

  • Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • heat stress
  • Cyanistes caeruleus
  • thermoregulation
  • nestling development
  • hyperthermia
  • heterothermy
  • Cyanistes caeruleus
  • heat stress
  • thermoregulatory capacity
  • nestling development
  • thermoregulation

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 0908-8857
Andreas Nord
E-mail: andreas [dot] nord [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Researcher

Evolutionary ecology

+4746143537

Ekologihuset, Sölvegatan 37, Lund

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