Life-history theory suggests that the variation in the seasonal timing of reproduction within populations may be explained on the basis of individual optimization. Optimal breeding times would vary between individuals as a result of trade-offs between fitness components. The existence of such trade-offs has seldom been tested empirically. We experimentally investigated the consequences of altered timing of current reproduction for future reproductive output in the European coot (Fulica atra). First clutches of different laying date were cross-fostered between nests, and parents thereby experienced a delay or an advance in the hatching date. The probability and success of a second brood, adult survival until and reproduction in the next season were then compared to the natural variation among control pairs. Among control pairs the probability of a second brood declined with the progress of season. Delayed pairs were less likely and advanced pairs were more likely to produce a second brood. These changes were quantitatively as predicted from the natural seasonal decline. The number of eggs in the second clutch was positively related to egg number in the first clutch and negatively related to laying date. Compared to the natural variation, delayed females had more and advanced females had fewer eggs in their second clutch. The size of the second brood declined with season, but there was no significant effect of delay or advance. Local adult survival was higher following a delay and reduced following an advance. The effect of the experiment on adult survival was independent of sex. Laying date and clutch size of females breeding in the next year were not affected by treatment. The study demonstrates the existence of a trade-off between increased probability of a second brood and decreased parental survival for early breeding. Timing-dependent effects of current reproduction on future reproductive output may thus play an important role in the evolution of the seasonal timing of reproduction.
Corresponding Editor: B. Crespi