The influence of variation in individual state on key reproductive decisions impacting fitness is well appreciated in evolutionary ecology. Rowe et al. (1994) developed a condition-dependent individual optimization model predicting that three key factors impact the ability of migratory female birds to individually optimize breeding phenology tomaximize fitness in seasonal environments: arrival condition, arrival date, and ability to gain in condition on the breeding grounds. While empirical studies have confirmed that greater arrival body mass and earlier arrival dates result in earlier laying, no study has assessed whether individual variation in energetic management of condition gain effects this key fitness-related decision. Using an 8-year data set from over 350 prebreeding female Arctic common eiders (Somateria mollissima), we tested this component of the model by examining whether individual variation in two physiological traits influencing energetic management (plasma triglycerides: physiological fattening rate; baseline corticosterone: energetic demand) predicted individual variation in breeding phenology after controlling for arrival date and body mass. As predicted by the optimization model, individuals with higher fattening rates and lower energetic demand had the earliest breeding phenology (shortest delays between arrival and laying; earliest laying dates). Our results are the first to empirically determine that individual flexibility in prebreeding energetic management influences key fitness-related reproductive decisions, suggesting that individuals have the capacity to optimally manage reproductive investment.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Breeding phenology, Energetic management, Fattening rate, Glucocorticoids, Individual optimization, Triglycerides
Persistent URL
Journal American Naturalist
Hennin, H.L. (Holly L.), Bêty, J. (Jöel), Legagneux, P. (Pierre), Gilchrist, H.G, Williams, T.D. (Tony D.), & Love, O.P. (Oliver P.). (2016). Energetic physiology mediates individual optimization of breeding phenology in a migratory Arctic Seabird. American Naturalist, 188(4), 434–445. doi:10.1086/688044