Evol Ecol Res 6: 1083-1098 (2004)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Effects of hatching asynchrony on sibling negotiation, begging, jostling for position and within-brood food allocation in the barn owl, Tyto alba

Alexandre Roulin*

Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

Address all correspondence to Alexandre Roulin, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biology Building, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
e-mail: alexandre.roulin@unil.ch


When siblings differ markedly in their need for food, they may benefit from signalling to each other their willingness to contest the next indivisible food item delivered by the parents. This sib–sib communication system, referred to as ‘sibling negotiation’, may allow them to adjust optimally to investment in begging. Using barn owl (Tyto alba) broods, I assessed the role of within-brood age hierarchy on sibling negotiation, and in turn on jostling for position where parents predictably deliver food (i.e. nest-box entrance), begging and within-brood food allocation. More specifically, I examined three predictions derived from a game-theoretical model of sibling negotiation where a senior and a junior sibling compete for food resources (Roulin, 2002a; Johnstone and Roulin, 2003): (1) begging effort invested by the senior sibling should be less sensitive to the junior sibling’s negotiation than vice versa; (2) the junior should invest less effort in sibling negotiation than its senior sibling but a similar amount of effort in begging; and (3) within-brood food allocation should be directly related to begging but only indirectly to sibling negotiation. Two-chick broods were created and vocalization in the absence (negotiation signals directed to siblings) and presence (begging signals directed to parents) of parents was recorded. In support of the first prediction, juniors begged at a low cadence after their senior sibling negotiated intensely, probably because negotiation reflects prospective investment in begging and hence willingness to compete. In contrast, the begging of senior siblings was not sensitive to their junior sibling’s negotiation. In contrast to the second prediction, juniors negotiated and begged more intensely than their senior sibling apparently because they were hungrier rather than younger. In line with the third prediction, juniors monopolized food delivered by their parents when their senior sibling begged at a low level. The begging cadence of both the junior and senior sibling, the junior’s negotiation cadence, the difference in age between the two nest-mates and jostling for position were not associated with the likelihood of monopolizing food. In conclusion, sibling negotiation appears to influence begging behaviour, which, in turn, affects within-brood food allocation. Juniors may negotiate to challenge their senior siblings, and thereby determine whether seniors are less hungry before deciding to beg for food. In contrast, seniors may negotiate to deter juniors from begging.

Keywords: begging, hatching asynchrony, parent–offspring conflict, sibling competition, sibling negotiation, Tyto alba.

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        © 2004 Alexandre Roulin. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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