Fecundity-Survival Trade-Offs and Parental Risk-Taking in Birds

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Science  20 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5516, pp. 494-497
DOI: 10.1126/science.1059379

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Life history theory predicts that parents should value their own survival over that of their offspring in species with a higher probability of adult survival and fewer offspring. We report that Southern Hemisphere birds have higher adult survival and smaller clutch sizes than Northern Hemisphere birds. We subsequently manipulated predation risk to adults versus offspring in 10 species that were paired between North and South America on the basis of phylogeny and ecology. As predicted, southern parents responded more strongly to reduce mortality risk to themselves even at a cost to their offspring, whereas northern parents responded more strongly to reduce risk to their offspring even at greater risk to themselves.

  • * Present address: Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: camerong{at}

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