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Local adaptation of timing of reproduction: females are in the driver's seat

Authors

  • Samuel P. Caro,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Research Group in Behavioural Neuroendocrinology, University of Liège, 1 Avenue de l’Hôpital (Bât. B36), B-4000 Liège-1 (Sart Tilman), Belgium
      *Correspondence author. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), P.O. Box 40 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands. E-mail: s.caro@nioo.knaw.nl
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Anne Charmantier,

    1. Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Marcel M. Lambrechts,

    1. Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
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  • Jacques Blondel,

    1. Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
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  • Jacques Balthazart,

    1. Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Research Group in Behavioural Neuroendocrinology, University of Liège, 1 Avenue de l’Hôpital (Bât. B36), B-4000 Liège-1 (Sart Tilman), Belgium
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  • Tony D. Williams

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6
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*Correspondence author. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), P.O. Box 40 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands. E-mail: s.caro@nioo.knaw.nl

Summary

  • 1Breeding at the right time of the year is crucial for many temperate zone organisms, as any mismatch with their optimal breeding period leads to a reduction in fitness. The roles of the breeding partners in these adaptive decisions have, however, only rarely been studied.
  • 2In blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) that breed in heterogenous Mediterranean habitats, nearby populations show up to 1-month differences in breeding time. This difference is adaptive as the optimal time for breeding varies by the same amount due to habitat characteristics. But which sex is determining this large difference in timing?
  • 3We show here that the seasonal development of female reproductive activity (yolk precursor production) closely matches the local optimal breeding time in these two highly contrasted landscapes, while previous studies have demonstrated that male gonadal development does not. In accordance with this, quantitative genetic analyses reveal that timing for breeding is determined by the female only, with no evidence for an additive genetic male effect on laying date.
  • 4Our results strongly suggest that the adaptive inter-population difference in the laying periods has been driven by females. The central role of females in the determination of breeding period needs to be included when studying how micro-evolutionary processes are affected by global climate change.

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