Ecology and allometry predict the evolution of avian developmental durations

Christopher R. Cooney, Catherine Sheard, Andrew D. Clark, Susan D. Healy, András Liker, Sally E. Street, Camille A. Troisi, Gavin H. Thomas, Tamás Székely, Nicola Hemmings, Alison E. Wright

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29 Citations (SciVal)


The duration of the developmental period represents a fundamental axis of life-history variation, yet broad insights regarding the drivers of this diversity are currently lacking. Here, we test mechanistic and ecological explanations for the evolution of developmental duration using embryological data and information on incubation and fledging for 3096 avian species. Developmental phases associated primarily with growth are the longest and most variable, consistent with a role for allometric constraint in determining the duration of development. In addition, developmental durations retain a strong imprint of deep evolutionary history and body size differences among species explain less variation than previously thought. Finally, we reveal ecological correlates of developmental durations, including variables associated with the relative safety of the developmental environment and pressures of breeding phenology. Overall, our results provide broad-scale insight into the relative importance of mechanistic, ecological and evolutionary constraints in shaping the diversification of this key life-history trait.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2383
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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