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8 May 2020 Estimating egg mass–body mass relationships in birds
John T. Rotenberry, Priya Balasubramaniam
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Abstract

The mass of a bird's egg is a critical attribute of the species' life history and represents a fundamental component of reproductive effort. Indeed, the tradeoff between the number of eggs in a clutch and clutch mass lies at the heart of understanding how environmental attributes such as nest predation or adult mortality influence reproductive investment. However, egg masses have not been reported for the majority of avian species. We capitalized on the strong allometric relationship between avian body mass and egg mass to produce egg mass estimates for over 5,500 species previously lacking such information. These estimates are accompanied by measures of the robustness of the regressions used to produce them (e.g., sample size, root mean square error [RMSE] of estimation, coefficient of determination, and degree of extrapolation), thus allowing independent evaluation of the suitability of any estimate to address a particular research question relating to avian life history. Most estimates (∼5,000) were based on family-level egg mass–body mass regressions, with the remainder derived from other relationships such as ordinal regressions. We compared estimating regressions based on adult vs. female body masses and, after finding little difference between the 2, based our final estimates on adult masses as those were more numerous in the literature. What small differences between adult- and female-based regressions that did occur were not related to sexual size dimorphism across families. These new estimates, coupled with ∼5,000 egg masses reported in the literature, provide a foundation of over 10,000 species for wider investigations assessing variation in reproductive effort in birds over a broad array of ecological and evolutionary contexts.

LAY SUMMARY

  • The mass of a bird's egg is a critical attribute of the species' life history but has not been reported for the majority of avian species.

  • We capitalized on the strong statistical relationship between egg mass and avian body mass (known for almost all bird species) to produce new egg mass estimates for over 5,500 species previously lacking such information.

  • Most estimates (∼5,000) were based on family level regressions of egg mass on body mass, with the remainder derived from other relationships such as order regressions.

  • We found little difference between egg mass relationships calculated from adult vs. female-only body masses and based our final estimates on adult masses as those were more numerous in the literature.

  • These new estimates, coupled with ∼5,000 egg masses reported in the literature, provide a foundation of over 10,000 species for wider investigations examiniing variation in reproductive effort in birds over a broad array of ecological and evolutionary contexts.

Copyright © American Ornithological Society 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
John T. Rotenberry and Priya Balasubramaniam "Estimating egg mass–body mass relationships in birds," The Auk 137(3), 1-11, (8 May 2020). https://doi.org/10.1093/auk/ukaa019
Received: 2 December 2019; Accepted: 19 March 2020; Published: 8 May 2020
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KEYWORDS
allometry
body mass
egg mass
reproductive effort
sexual size dimorphism
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