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Synchrony in egg-laying and reproductive success of neighboring common murres, Uria aalge
Murphy, E.C. & Schauer, J.H. (1996) Behav Ecol Sociobiol 39:245-258
Common Murres (Uria aalge) are highly colonial; pairs often breed at the highest possible densities, in bodily contact with neighbors. At Bluff, a colony in western Alaska, we tested for synchrony in egg laying at various spatial scales and found little evidence for higher synchrony, either within study plots of 15-195 pairs, or within subplots containing several pairs, than among plots in a 5 year study. Egg laying of neighbors generally was more synchronous than expected based on overall frequency distributions in laying dates, however. Breeding success was positively correlated with the number of breeding neighbors and the number of neighbors tending eggs or nestlings at the time of egg laying. Breeding success of pairs with nieghbors was positively related to the breeding success of nieghbors. Pairs that produced eggs synchronously with at least one neighboring pair had higher success than those that began breeding either before or after their neighbors. Most reproductive failures at Bluff are due to accidental egg loss and predation on eggs by Common Ravens, Corvus corax, soon after laying. By occupying space where a Raven might otherwise land and defending their own eggs, active breeding neighbors locally reduce the probability of egg predation. Active breeding neighbors also are less likely to flush and accidentally dislodge nearby eggs when disturbed than are nonbreeders. Murres breeding synchronously with neighbors have the highest assurance of the presence of active breeding neighbors both at the time of egg laying and throughout their reproductive attempts. Groups of neighboring murres can be considered small “selfish herds,” demonstrating by-product mutualism through their continued presence and defense of their own eggs and nestlings. Despite the advantages of breeding synchronously with neighbors, early breeding may often be favored, however.

Keywords: Breeding synchrony, Synchrony and breeding success, Neighbor effects, Common murre, Uria aalge


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