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Age Is More Than A Number: In Barn Owls, It Reveals How Susceptible One Is To Climate Change

Date:
January 16, 2007
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Fluctuations in weather and the environment affect survival and reproduction of animals. But are all individuals within a population equally susceptible? Theory on the evolution in age-structured populations suggests not -- those life stages that are more important for overall fitness should be less susceptible to environmental variation than other life stages.

Young barn owls waiting for the return of a parent with prey.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Alex Labhardt

Fluctuations in weather and the environment affect survival and reproduction of animals. But are all individuals within a population equally susceptible? Theory on the evolution in age-structured populations suggests not -- those life stages that are more important for overall fitness should be less susceptible to environmental variation than other life stages. Empirical support for this prediction is rare because detailed data need to be collected over many years, and true variation tends to be inflated through the way in which natural populations are sampled.

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In the January issue of The American Naturalist, Res Altwegg (University of Cape Town and University of Victoria), Michael Schaub (Swiss Ornithological Institute and University of Bern), and Alexandre Roulin (University of Lausanne), examined temporal variation in survival and reproduction of barn owls in western Switzerland that had been observed over the past fifteen years. Using recently developed statistical tools, they were able to show that those fitness components that experienced stronger selection were indeed less variable over the years.

"Our results help explain why certain age classes are more susceptible to adverse weather, and they will help us understand how climatic variation affects populations of organisms in nature. This is important for predicting the effect of climate change on populations," the authors said.

Founded in 1867, The American Naturalist is one of the world's most renowned, peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and population and integrative biology research. AN emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses--all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.

Reference: Altwegg, Res, Michael Schaub, and Alexandre Roulin, "Age-specific fitness components and their temporal variation in the barn owl." The American Naturalist: January 2007.


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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Age Is More Than A Number: In Barn Owls, It Reveals How Susceptible One Is To Climate Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110180940.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007, January 16). Age Is More Than A Number: In Barn Owls, It Reveals How Susceptible One Is To Climate Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110180940.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Age Is More Than A Number: In Barn Owls, It Reveals How Susceptible One Is To Climate Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110180940.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

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