Effects of Food Availability on Yolk Androgen Deposition in the Black-Legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), a Seabird with Facultative Brood Reduction
In birds with facultative brood reduction, survival of the junior chick is thought to be regulated primarily by food availability. In black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) where parents and chicks are provided with unlimited access to supplemental food during the breeding season, brood reduction still occurs and varies interannually. Survival of the junior chick is therefore affected by factors in addition to the amount of food directly available to them. Maternally deposited yolk androgens affect competitive dynamics within a brood, and may be one of the mechanisms by which mothers mediate brood reduction in response to a suite of environmental and physiological cues. The goal of this study was to determine whether food supplementation during the pre-lay period affected patterns of yolk androgen deposition in free-living kittiwakes in two years (2003 and 2004) that varied in natural food availability. Chick survival was measured concurrently in other nests where eggs were not collected. In both years, supplemental feeding increased female investment in eggs by increasing egg mass. First-laid ("A") eggs were heavier but contained less testosterone and androstenedione than second-laid ("B") eggs across years and treatments. Yolk testosterone was higher in 2003 (the year with higher B chick survival) across treatments. The difference in yolk testosterone levels between eggs within a clutch varied among years and treatments such that it was relatively small when B chick experienced the lowest and the highest survival probabilities, and increased with intermediate B chick survival probabilities. The magnitude of testosterone asymmetry in a clutch may allow females to optimize fitness by either predisposing a brood for reduction or facilitating survival of younger chicks.
Benowitz-Fredericks, Z. Morgan; Kitaysky, Alexander S.; Welcker, Jorg; and Hatch, Scott A.. "Effects of Food Availability on Yolk Androgen Deposition in the Black-Legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), a Seabird with Facultative Brood Reduction." PLOS One (2013) : e62949.