Insular nestling growth and its relationship to parental care effort in Silvereyes, Zosterops lateralis
Sandvig EM., Coulson T., Robertson BC., Feeney WE., Clegg SM.
The rate at which avian offspring grow can have consequences for survival and reproductive output as an adult and is known to vary widely among and within species. This variation is thought to be an adaptive response to cope with environmental variation. The principal environmental factors affecting growth are food availability and predation risk, predominantly acting as constraints on parental care. Islands pose an interesting system to explore growth rate dynamics, because the characteristic insular features of high population densities and depauperate predator diversity translate into a potentially food limited environment with low predation risk. Insular environments typically produce populations with slower life history strategies and larger body size in small-bodied species, features that are likely to be mediated by growth rate. We describe the nestling growth of an insular population of Silvereyes and how it relates to parental size and parental care. Neither parental size nor parental care explained insular nestling growth rate, even though food acquisition is thought to underpin avian growth rates. This could be due to a mismatch between acquisition and allocation of resources by nestlings. Compared to a small number of mainland nestlings, the island growth curve asymptotes were significantly larger and inflection points much later, but insular growth rates were only marginally slower. This is in line with proposed insular adaptations required to produce larger body size on islands, however understanding the mechanism underlying this pattern will require data on the relationship between food quality and acquisition, and physiological allocation of resources within individuals.