The evolution of fledging age in songbirds.

Abstract

In birds with altricial young an important stage in the life history is the age at fledging. In this paper we use an approach proven successful in the prediction of the optimal age at maturity in fish and reptiles to predict the optimal age of fledging in passerines. Integrating the effects of growth on future fecundity and survival leads to the prediction that the optimal age at fledging is given by a function that comprises survival to maturity, the exponent of the fecundity-body size relationship and nestling growth. Growth is described by the logistic equation with parameters, A, K and t(i). Assuming that the transitional mortality curve can be approximated by the nestling mortality, M(n), the optimal fledging age, t(f), is given by a simple formula involving the three growth parameters, nestling mortality (M(n)) and the exponent (d) of the fecundity-body size relationship. Predictions of this equation underestimate the true values by 11-16%, which is expected as a consequence of the transitional mortality function approximation. A transitional mortality function in which mortality is approximately 0.3-0.4 of nesting mortality (i.e. mortality declines rapidly after fledging) produces predictions which, on average, equal the observed values. Data are presented showing that mortality does indeed decline rapidly upon fledging.

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@article{Roff2005TheEO, title={The evolution of fledging age in songbirds.}, author={Derek A. Roff and Vladim{\'i}r Reme{\vs} and Thomas E Martin}, journal={Journal of evolutionary biology}, year={2005}, volume={18 6}, pages={1425-33} }