South temperate birds have higher apparent adult survival than tropical birds in Africa

Penn Lloyd, Fitsum Abadi, Res Altwegg, Thomas E. Martin

Published online: 
9 May 2014

Life history theory predicts an inverse relationship between annual adult survival and fecundity. Globally, clutch size shows a latitudinal gradient among birds, with south temperate species laying smaller clutches than north temperate species, but larger clutches than tropical species. Tropical birds often have higher adult survival than north temperate birds associated with their smaller clutches. However, the prediction that tropical birds should also have higher adult survival than south temperate birds because of smaller clutch sizes remains largely untested. We measured clutch size and apparent annual breeding adult survival for 17 south temperate African species to test two main predictions. First, we found strong support for a predicted inverse relationship between adult survival and clutch size among the south temperate species, consistent with life-history theory. Second, we compared our clutch size and survival estimates with published estimates for congeneric tropical African species to test the prediction of larger clutch size and lower adult survival among south temperate than related tropical species. We found that south-temperate species laid larger clutches, as predicted, but had higher, rather than lower, apparent adult survival than related tropical species. The latter result may be an artefact of different approaches to measuring survival, but the results suggest that adult survival is generally high in the south temperate region and raises questions about the importance of the cost of reproduction to adult survival.