Life-history innovation to climate change: can single-brooded migrant birds become multiple breeders?

Both, Christiaan; Ubels, Richard; Ravussin, Pierre-Alain

27 March 2019

When climatic conditions change and become outside the range experienced in the past, species may show life-history innovations allowing them to adapt in new ways. We report such an innovation for pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca. Decades of breeding biological studies on pied flycatchers have rarely reported multiple breeding in this long-distance migrant. In two populations, we found 12 recent incidents of females with second broods, all produced by extremely early laying females in warm springs. As such early first broods are a recent phenomenon, because laying dates have gradually advanced over time, this innovation now allows individual females to enhance their reproductive success considerably. If laying dates continue advancing, potentially more females may become multiple breeders and selection for early (and multiple) breeding phenotypes increases, which may accelerate adaptation to climatic change.