Timing of reproduction and egg quality covary with temperature in the insectivorous Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica


†Author to whom correspondence should be sent. E-mail: nicola.saino@unimi.it


  • 1Egg size and composition can be predicted to trade-off against current condition of reproducing females. Adverse conditions for reproduction should thus give rise to a reduction in egg size and quality.
  • 2Here we analyse timing of reproduction, egg mass and hatchability, and concentration of maternal carotenoids and components of the immune system in the eggs in relation to ambient temperature during the breeding season for the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica, Linnaeus).
  • 3Relatively high temperatures during one day enhanced the probability that clutches were initiated the following days. Egg mass at laying, concentration of lutein, the main carotenoid in Barn Swallows, and lysozyme, a major maternal component of innate immunity in eggs, but not maternal antigen-specific antibodies, covaried with temperature during the days preceding laying of individual eggs.
  • 4Egg mass but not laying order or temperature during incubation predicted hatchability of the eggs.
  • 5This study suggests that temperature affects not only egg mass, as previously shown for bird species, but also concentration of maternally derived substances, such as antioxidants and immune factors, that can affect egg hatchability and offspring antiparasite defence and viability.