Adaptive latitudinal variation in Common Blackbird Turdus merula nest characteristics

Mainwaring, Mark C. and Deeming, D. Charles and Jones, Chris I. and Hartley, Ian R. (2014) Adaptive latitudinal variation in Common Blackbird Turdus merula nest characteristics. Ecology and Evolution, 4 (6). pp. 841-851. ISSN 2045-7758

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.952

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Item Type:Article
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Abstract

Nest construction is taxonomically widespread, yet our understanding of adaptive
intraspecific variation in nest design remains poor. Nest characteristics are
expected to vary adaptively in response to predictable variation in spring temperatures
over large spatial scales, yet such variation in nest design remains largely
overlooked, particularly amongst open-cup-nesting birds. Here, we systematically
examined the effects of latitudinal variation in spring temperatures and precipitation
on the morphology, volume, composition, and insulatory properties of
open-cup-nesting Common Blackbirds’ Turdus merula nests to test the hypothesis
that birds living in cooler environments at more northerly latitudes would build
better insulated nests than conspecifics living in warmer environments at more
southerly latitudes. As spring temperatures increased with decreasing latitude, the
external diameter of nests decreased. However, as nest wall thickness also
decreased, there was no variation in the diameter of the internal nest cups. Only
the mass of dry grasses within nests decreased with warmer temperatures at lower
latitudes. The insulatory properties of nests declined with warmer temperatures at
lower latitudes and nests containing greater amounts of dry grasses had higher insulatory
properties. The insulatory properties of nests decreased with warmer temperatures
at lower latitudes, via changes in morphology (wall thickness) and
composition (dry grasses). Meanwhile, spring precipitation did not vary with latitude,
and none of the nest characteristics varied with spring precipitation. This suggests
that Common Blackbirds nesting at higher latitudes were building nests with
thicker walls in order to counteract the cooler temperatures. We have provided evidence
that the nest construction behavior of open-cup-nesting birds systematically
varies in response to large-scale spatial variation in spring temperatures.

Additional Information:First published online 21 FEB 2014
Keywords:Bird nest, Blackbird, Insulation, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C140 Developmental/Reproductive Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:13596
Deposited On:24 Mar 2014 15:59

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