Sex-specific growth patterns and effects of hatching condition on growth in the reversed sexually size-dimorphic great skua Stercorarius skua

Kalmbach, E., Griffiths, R. and Furness, R.W. (2009) Sex-specific growth patterns and effects of hatching condition on growth in the reversed sexually size-dimorphic great skua Stercorarius skua. Journal of Avian Biology, 40(4), pp. 358-368. (doi: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04339.x)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


In many sexually size-dimorphic species of birds and mammals, the larger sex, often the males, show increased environmental sensitivity during ontogeny. This is generally assumed to be due to higher energy requirements, reflected in higher absolute growth rates of the larger sex. Poor early conditions often increase the sex differences in vulnerability. However, it is not clear whether these patterns are equally pervasive in species where females are larger, as males face an additional early disadvantage due to high levels of testosterone. We investigated sex-specific growth patterns of mass, tarsus and wing of the great skua Stercorarius skua, a seabird with reversed size dimorphism. We were particularly interested in sex-specific effects of early conditions on growth. Beside data from unmanipulated nests, we present results from an egg removal experiment, which caused chicks to hatch from smaller eggs and in poorer body condition. Half of the experimental chicks were raised by pairs in which mothers were in poor body condition. At the end of the nesting period, great skua chicks exhibited a comparable degree of size dimorphism as is found in adults, although neither sex had reached final adult size. Despite females reaching larger asymptotic values of mass and tarsus, timing of growth was not different between the sexes. Absolute growth was higher for females around the time of maximum growth, which suggests that daughters face higher energetic demands. We found sex-specific effects of poor early conditions on growth patterns, although not to the extent which we had predicted. Hatching in poor body condition was related to slowed growth in females but not males. However, our experimental manipulations had no additional negative effect on growth. Our results indicate that daughters in the great skua face higher demands during growth than sons, and that early conditions are more important for the development of the larger sex in this reversed dimorphic species

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Furness, Professor Robert
Authors: Kalmbach, E., Griffiths, R., and Furness, R.W.
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Avian Biology
ISSN (Online):1600-048X
Published Online:22 June 2009

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record