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Causes of lifetime fitness of Darwin's finches in a fluctuating environment

Author(s): Grant, Peter R.; Grant, B. Rosemary

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Abstract: The genetic basis of variation in fitness of many organisms has been studied in the laboratory, but relatively little is known of fitness variation in natural environments or its causes. Lifetime fitness (recruitment) may be determined solely by producing many offspring, modified by stochastic effects on their subsequent survival up to the point of breeding, or by an additional contribution made by the high quality of the offspring owing to nonrandom mate choice. To investigate the determinants of lifetime fitness, we measured offspring production, longevity, and lifetime number of mates in four cohorts of two long-lived species of socially monogamous Darwin’s finch species, Geospiza fortis and G. scandens, on the equatorial Galápagos Island of Daphne Major. Regression analysis showed that the lifetime production of fledglings was predicted by lifetime number of clutches and that recruitment was predicted by lifetime number of fledglings and longevity. There was little support for a hypothesis of selective mating by females. The offspring sired by extrapair mates were no more fit in terms of recruitment than were half-sibs sired by social mates. These findings provide insight into the evolution of life history strategies of tropical birds. Darwin’s finches deviate from the standard tropical pattern of a slow pace of life by combining tropical (long lifespan) and temperate (large clutch size) characteristics. Our study of fitness shows why this is so in terms of selective pressures (fledgling production and adult longevity) and ecological opportunities (pulsed food supply and relatively low predation).
Publication Date: 11-Jan-2011
Electronic Publication Date: 3-Jan-2011
Citation: Grant, P.R., Grant, B.R. (2011). Causes of lifetime fitness of Darwin's finches in a fluctuating environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (2), 674 - 679. doi:10.1073/pnas.1018080108
DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.1018080108
ISSN: 0027-8424
EISSN: 1091-6490
Pages: 674 - 679
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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