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Sex of the first hatched chick influences survival of the brood in the herring gull (Larus argentatus)


Pat Monaghan, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, IBLS, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.
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Differences in the growth rate of male and female offspring can result in different parental rearing costs for sons and daughters. Such differences may also influence the survival chances of male and female offspring when conditions are unfavourable. In birds, hatching asynchrony leads to hierarchical competition for food between siblings. Therefore, the sex of the chick in the first hatched position in the brood may influence breeding success by affecting the extent to which the later hatched chicks can compete for resources. The interaction between brood sex composition and chick performance in the herring gull Larus argentatus was examined under different environmental conditions. When environmental conditions were relatively good, chick survival within broods was better when a female was first to hatch, an effect that was most obvious later in the season. When conditions were poorer however, sex of the first hatched chicks was not related to brood survival. In neither situation did the overall primary sex ratio differ from equality. However in the year of relatively good food availability, the first chick in the brood was more likely to be male early in the season, which was when the disadvantageous effects on brood survival of males being in this position are weakest.

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