Sexual differences in phenotypical predictors of floating status: body condition influences male but not female reproductive status in a wild passerine
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FloatingStarlingReproductive statusNonbreedersEarly conditions
Redondo, I... [et al.]. Sexual differences in phenotypical predictors of floating status: body condition influences male but not female reproductive status in a wild passerine. Oecologia 199, 79–90 (2022). [https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-022-05180-1]
SponsorshipCRUECSIC agreement; Springer Nature; Spanish Government CGL2017-83843-C2-1-P CGL2008-03501/BOS CGL2011-26318; Spanish Ministry of Science and Universities (MCIN/AEI) PGC2018-099596-B-I00; Spanish Ministry of Science and Universities (ERDF A way of making Europe) PGC2018-099596-B-I00
Floaters constitute the sexually mature but non-breeding part of populations. Despite being ubiquitous in most species, knowledge about floaters is scarce. Ignoring this significant number of individuals may strongly bias our understanding of population dynamics and sexual selection processes. We used the spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor) to examine whether phenotypical and non-phenotypical variables from early and adult life predict reproductive status, focusing on the earliest age at which most individuals start to breed, when the percentage of floaters is the highest. We compiled data from a longterm study involving eight female and seven male cohorts of individuals PIT-tagged at birth. We compared a suite of nestling (condition, hatching date and brood size) and adult variables (condition, size and ornamentation) between floaters and breeders. We found that adult and nestling body condition strongly and positively influenced the likelihood of breeding in males. Path analysis revealed that male reproductive status could only be predicted by considering nestling body condition—the influence of this variable superseded adult body condition. Female reproductive status was only negatively associated with hatching date. Ornamentation was not associated with reproductive status in any of the sexes, although path analyses revealed that body condition was positively associated with throat feather length. We conclude that predictors of reproductive status are sex-specific in the spotless starling, suggesting an important role of body condition in access to breeding resources in males. Our results also highlight the long-term influence of early life on life trajectories and their potential implications on floating status.