New paper co-authored by Ben Freeman in clutch size and elevation

Andy J. Boyce, Benjamin G. Freeman, Adam E. Mitchell, and Thomas E. Martin (2015) Clutch size declines with elevation in tropical birds. The Auk: April 2015, Vol. 132, No. 2, pp. 424-432.

Clutch size commonly decreases with increasing elevation among temperate-zone and subtropical songbird species. Tropical songbirds typically lay small clutches, thus the ability to evolve even smaller clutch sizes at higher elevations is unclear and untested. We conducted a comparative phylogenetic analysis using data gathered from the literature to test whether clutch size varied with elevation among forest passerines from three tropical biogeographic regions—the Venezuelan Andes and adjacent lowlands, Malaysian Borneo, and New Guinea. We found a significant negative effect of elevation on variation in clutch size among species. We found the same pattern using field data sampled across elevational gradients in Venezuela and Malaysian Borneo. Field data were not available for New Guinea. Both sets of results demonstrate that tropical montane species across disparate biogeographic realms lay smaller clutches than closely related low-elevation species. The environmental sources of selection underlying this pattern remain uncertain and merit further investigation.

Photo: The Black Fantail (Rhipidura atra) inhabits montane forests in New Guinea. Like many montane tropical birds, this species lays just a single egg. blackfantainoneegg

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