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Heat dissipation rate constrains reproductive investment in a wild bird

  • Andreas Nord
  • Jan Åke Nilsson
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 250-259
Publication/Series: Functional Ecology
Volume: 33
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

The “heat dissipation limit” theory (HDL) posits that animals with higher capacity to dissipate metabolic heat can increase reproductive investment. This theory remains untested in the wild. We recently showed that increased workload in a small bird causally relates to maximum body temperature. Here, we have expanded this approach by experimentally facilitating sensible heat transfer rate in nestling-feeding blue tits—a small bird with high resting- and work-induced body temperatures—through removal of ventral plumage. Feather-clipped parents did not increase work rate but sired larger, and sometimes heavier, nestlings while maintaining lower body temperature and losing less body mass than controls. Thus, when relieved of the demands to dissipate metabolic heat, parents could invest more into both current (nestling condition) and future (self-maintenance) reproduction. In accordance with the HDL theory, we conclude that constraints on heat dissipation rate could be a potent mediator of life-history trade-offs in wild animals. A plain language summary is available for this article.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • heat dissipation limit
  • heat transfer model
  • heterothermy hyperthermia
  • life-history trade-off
  • reproduction
  • sustained energy expenditure
  • workload


  • ISSN: 0269-8463
Andreas Nord at NHM London
E-mail: andreas [dot] nord [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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