Evol Ecol Res 10: 463-473 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Pre-hatching maternal effects and the tasty chick hypothesis

Alexandre Roulin,* Julien Gasparini and Lucie Froissart

Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Biophore, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: alexandre.roulin@unil.ch


Question: Are maternal effects (i.e. maternal transfer of immune components to their offspring via the placenta or the egg) specifically directed to the offspring on which ectoparasites predictably aggregate?

Organisms: The barn owl (Tyto alba) because late-hatched offspring are the main target of the ectoparasitic fly Carnus hemapterus.

Hypothesis: Pre-hatching maternal effects enhance parasite resistance of late- compared with early-hatched nestlings.

Search method: To disentangle the effect of natal from rearing ranks on parasite intensity, we exchanged hatchlings between nests to allocate early- and late-hatched hatchlings randomly in the within-brood age hierarchy.

Result: After controlling for rearing ranks, cross-fostered late-hatched nestlings were less parasitized but lighter than cross-fostered early-hatched nestlings.

Conclusion: Pre-hatching maternal effects increase parasite resistance of late-hatched offspring at a growth cost.

Keywords: growth, hatching asynchrony, host–parasite interactions, maternal effects, tasty chick hypothesis.

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