Is there a trade-off between egg weight and clutch size in wild Lesser Snow Geese (Anser c. caerulescens)?

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Abstract

Previous studies of arctic nesting geese suggest that laying is limited by the size of a female's body reserves and that larger eggs contain more nutrients. These observations imply a life-history trade-off between egg size and clutch size which may give rise to a negative genetic correlation between the two characters. We estimated the genetic correlation between egg weight and clutch size using measurements from mothers and their daughters in a wild population of Lesser Snow Geese Anser caerulescens caerulescens. Between 65 and 80 % of the variance in egg weight is attributable to differences between individuals, and heritability of egg weight is about 60 %. In contrast, 10–20 % of the variance in clutch size is attributable to differences between individuals, and heritability of clutch size is about 15 %. The genetic correlation coefficient between egg weight and clutch size ranges from 0.09 to 0.32 and does not differ significantly from zero. We discuss the possible reasons for the lack of the expected negative genetic correlation.

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