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The influence of body size, breeding experience and environmental variability on egg size in the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

  • Pascale Michel (a1), Janet C. Ollason (a2), Vladimir Grosbois (a1) (a3) and Paul M. Thompson (a1) (a3)


Procellariform seabirds provide a good model for studies of the causes and consequences of variability in avian egg size, because females can only adjust reproductive investment by breeding intermittently, or by altering the size of their single egg. Maternal characteristics such as age, breeding experience and body size, as well as environmental variability, can influence egg size, but the effect of these factors has rarely been assessed simultaneously in the same study. Previous studies in Scotland have shown that the egg size of northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis increased in relation to breeding experience. At this colony the influence of breeding experience, body size and inter-annual variability upon egg size was tested simultaneously. Data collected over seven breeding seasons between 1975 and 2002 showed that egg size varied significantly both between years and in relation to the length of the breeding experience of females, but that female body size explained most variation in egg size. Inter-annual variability in egg size was not related to the winter North Atlantic Oscillation, which had recently been shown to influence other measures of reproductive success at this colony. Larger eggs also seem to be more likely to produce successful fledglings. These findings are discussed in relation to the relative contribution of egg quality and parental quality on increased reproductive success.


Corresponding author

All correspondence to: P. Thompson. E-mail:
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Journal of Zoology
  • ISSN: 0952-8369
  • EISSN: 1469-7998
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-zoology
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