Postnatal growth rate varies with latitude in range-expanding geese: The role of plasticity and day length

M.P. Boom (Corresponding author), H.P. van der Jeugd, Boas Steffani, B.A. Nolet, K. Larsson, G. Eichhorn

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The postnatal growth period is a crucial life stage, with potential lifelong effects on an animal's fitness. How fast animals grow depends on their life-history strategy and rearing environment, and interspecific comparisons generally show higher growth rates at higher latitudes. However, to elucidate the mechanisms behind this gradient in growth rate, intraspecific comparisons are needed.
Recently, barnacle geese expanded their Arctic breeding range from the Russian Barents Sea coast southwards, and now also breed along the Baltic and North Sea coasts. Baltic breeders shortened their migration, while barnacle geese breeding along the North Sea stopped migrating entirely.
We collected cross-sectional data on gosling tarsus length, head length and body mass, and constructed population-specific growth curves to compare growth rates among three populations (Barents Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea) spanning 17° in latitude.
Growth rate was faster at higher latitudes, and the gradient resembled the latitudinal gradient previously observed in an interspecific comparison of precocial species. Differences in day length among the three breeding regions could largely explain the observed differences in growth rate. In the Baltic, and especially in the Arctic population, growth rate was slower later in the season, most likely because of the stronger seasonal decline in food quality.
Our results suggest that differences in postnatal growth rate between the Arctic and temperate populations are mainly a plastic response to local environmental conditions. This plasticity can increase the individuals' ability to cope with annual variation in local conditions, but can also increase the potential to re-distribute and adapt to new breeding environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-427
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Volume91
Issue number2
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • international
  • Plan_S-Compliant-TA

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