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Reversed Sexual Size Dimorphism and Parental Care: Minimal Division of Labour in the Blue-Footed Booby

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Reversed sexual size dimorphism in avian species (females larger than males) may be an adaptive consequence of different roles of males and females in parental care. We examined the alleged division of labour in two-chick broods of the blue-footed booby, using behavioural observation and frequent weighing of chicks. In the first week of parental care, males and females fed broods at similar frequencies and provided similar masses of food, but females brooded more than males when broods were 5-10 d old. Subsequently, females provided a greater mass of food and frequency of feeds than males until chicks were at least 35 d old (mass) and 60 d old (frequency), while attending the brood for just as much time as males until chicks were at least 35 d old. Males and females did not differ in the tendency to feed (frequency and mass) the first-hatched chick differentially. In nearly all components of parental care examined here, and in other studies, the female's contribution is equal to or greater than the male's. Only in clutch attendance and nest defence does the male contribute more than the female, but his small size seems unlikely to enhance performance in these activities. Overall, small size appears potentially to limit male provisioning of the brood, and is unlikely to be an adaptation for division oflabour in parental care. This result casts doubt on the relevance of the division-of-labour hypothesis for adult size dimorphism.

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Affiliations: 1: Centro de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, A.P. 70-275, 04510 D.F., Mexico


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