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No experimental evidence that sibling competition induces young to switch nests in the colonial Alpine swift, Apus melba
Adoption is frequent in colonial animals where opportunities for dependent young to receive care from nonbiological parents are high. The departure of dependent young from their original family to seek adoption in neighbouring families is thought to be induced by sibling competition for access to limited resources provided by poor-quality parents. We tested this hypothesis in the colonial Alpine swift by manipulating the number of young reared per brood, with the prediction that offspring from enlarged broods switch nests more frequently than those from reduced broods. Although nestling swifts hatch with little locomotor activity, from 20 days until their first flight at 50-70 days they frequently move out of their nests to seek adoption in neighbouring families. Although nestlings reared in experimentally enlarged broods were lighter and their body mass at day 20 after hatching was more variable than in nestlings reared in reduced broods, there was no difference between the two treatments in the frequency of nests switching and in the age when nestlings switched nests for the first time. However, consistent with other evidence that nest switching by nestling swifts evolved as a strategy to reduce ectoparasite load, young from broods with naturally high numbers of the ectoparasitic louse fly Crataerina melbae were more prone to switch nests. This shows that ectoparasitism rather than sibling competition is a key proximate factor promoting the evolution of nest switching in the colonial Alpine swift. (c) 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
RING-BILLED GULLS, INTERGENERATIONAL CONFLICT, ALLOPARENTAL CARE, ADOPTION BEHAVIOR, CHICK, HYPOTHESIS, PROXIMATE, NESTLINGS, STRATEGY, BROODS
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