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, 172 (1), 93-107

Size-biased Allocation of Prey From Male to Offspring via Female: Family Conflicts, Prey Selection, and Evolution of Sexual Size Dimorphism in Raptors

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Size-biased Allocation of Prey From Male to Offspring via Female: Family Conflicts, Prey Selection, and Evolution of Sexual Size Dimorphism in Raptors

Geir A Sonerud et al. Oecologia.

Abstract

In birds with bi-parental care, the provisioning link between prey capture and delivery to dependent offspring is regarded as often symmetric between the mates. However, in raptors, the larger female usually broods and feeds the nestlings, while the smaller male provides food for the family, assisted by the female in the latter part of the nestling period, if at all. Prey items are relatively large and often impossible for nestlings to handle without extended maternal assistance. We video-recorded prey delivery and handling in nests of a raptor with a wide diet, the Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus, and simultaneously observed prey transfer from male to female outside the nest. The male selectively allocated larger items, in particular birds and larger mammals, to the female for further processing and feeding of nestlings, and smaller items, in particular lizards and smaller mammals, directly to the nestlings for unassisted feeding. Hence, from the video, the female appeared to have captured larger prey than the male, while in reality no difference existed. The female's size-biased interception of the male's prey provisioning line would maximize the male's foraging time, and maximize the female's control of the allocation of food between her own need and that of the offspring. The male would maximize his control of food allocation by capturing smaller prey. This conflict would select for larger dominant females and smaller energy-efficient males, and induce stronger selection the longer the female depends on the male for self-feeding, as a proportion of the offspring dependence period.

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