Relationship between clutch size, egg volume and hatching success in a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis colony in south-eastern Tunisia
This study aimed to test the hypothesis that clutch size covaries with egg volume and hatching success in the Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. We determined clutch size and egg volume in a sample of 131 nests, and we used the data to check whether egg volume varied among nests according to clutch size, while taking into account the effects of egg laying order. We also estimated hatching success rate and investigated the relationship between hatching success and clutch size. Egg volume varied among clutches according to clutch size, with eggs being larger in three-egg clutches than in two-egg clutches. Moreover, three-egg clutches showed higher daily survival rates, and hence hatching success, than two-egg clutches. Overall, our results suggest that in the Yellow-legged Gull clutch size covaries with egg volume and hatching success, which could possibly reflect an age effect through different mechanisms. Indeed, older females could be hypothesised to exhibit greater breeding performance than younger females because of their higher experience in tapping energy resources for egg formation and defending nests from dangers. Moreover, due to their age, older females are likely to have lower residual reproductive potential and should invest more heavily in current breeding attempts.
Keywords: clutch size, egg volume, hatching success, Yellow-legged Gull