Individual Quality Trumps Reproductive Tradeoffs in Ducks

Not all ducks are created equal. In female Wood Ducks, variation in individual quality is what matters for breeding success and survival, according to the results of a new long-term study being published inĀ The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

Drawing on 11 years of data on almost 500 ducks, Robert Kennamer of the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and Gary Hepp and Bradley Alexander of Auburn University found a positive relationship between annual survival and nesting success — females that were better at raising their offspring were also better at surviving. This contradicts an established theory predicting the existence of a tradeoff between current reproductive effort and future success.

“Theory predicts that current reproductive effort will negatively affect survival and future reproduction,” says Hepp.

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