The evolution of egg size in socially polyandrous shorebirds

A Liker, J D Reynolds, T Szekely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)


In classical and multi-clutch polyandry, females lay multiple clutches during a breeding season for more than one mate. The production of multiple clutches may be energetically demanding. We used comparative analyses to investigate three possible ways of reducing such egg-laying costs in polyandrous shorebirds: (1) reduction in egg size, (2) reduction in clutch size, and (3) evolutionary increase in female size. Paired comparisons of polyandrous and non-polyandrous taxa showed that females of polyandrous shorebirds lay smaller eggs than females of closely related monogamous and polygynous species. Directional analyses corroborated this result by indicating a significant decrease in egg size after phylogenetically independent origins of polyandry. The comparative analyses uniformly rejected the two alternatives, i.e. neither clutch size nor female size is related to social mating pattern. We also tested and rejected three alternative explanations for reduced egg size in polyandrous taxa, First, we found no evidence that polyandrous females have evolved smaller egg sizes in response to selection to match smaller size of males, which provide the parental care in these species. Second, reduction in egg size was not related to longer breeding seasons (and hence more opportunity for re-nesting). Third, reduced egg sizes were also not related to rates of clutch predation (another potential correlate of multiple clutch production). Our results are thus consistent with the hypothesis that selection for reducing laying costs explains small egg size in socially polyandrous shorebirds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

ID number: ISI:000172338600001


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