Because incubation by birds is energetically costly, parents frequently trade off investment in incubation against self-maintenance. This can be manifested by a reduction in incubation temperature, which comes at high somatic costs for nestlings. The extent to which these costs constrain fitness is poorly understood. We incubated wild blue tit clutches at three biologically relevant temperatures and subsequently recorded winter survival and survival to the breeding season. Fledglings from the coldest treatment (35.0°C) survived less well than other fledglings, but the proportion of winter and breeding survivors did not differ significantly between treatments. However, survival probability in both seasons increased with body mass at fledging in birds from low and mid incubation temperatures, but decreased with fledging body mass in the high-temperature treatment. Mid-temperature nestlings were heavier as adults, weighing 7% more than low- and high-temperature survivors. Thus, high incubation temperature can be beneficial in the short term, but costs of accelerated embryonic development may equal those of protracted development in the long term. Such hidden consequences of faster development could maintain natural selection for average incubation temperature.
- Received January 31, 2016.
- Accepted March 7, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.