Passerines may be sufficiently plastic to track temperature-mediated shifts in optimum lay date

Albert Phillimore, David I. Leech, James W. Pearce-Higgins, Jarrod Hadfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Projecting the fates of populations under climate change is one of global change biology’s foremost challenges. Here we seek to identify the contributions that temperature-mediated local adaptation and plasticity make to spatial variation in British bird nesting phenology, a phenotypic trait showing strong responses to warming. We apply a mixed modeling framework to a Britain-wide spatiotemporal dataset comprising >100,000 records of first egg dates from four single-brooded passerine bird species. The average temperature during a specific time period (sliding-window) strongly predicts spatiotemporal variation in lay date. All four species exhibit phenological plasticity, advancing lay date by 2–5 days°C-1. The initiation of this sliding-window is delayed further north, which may be a response to a photoperiod threshold. Using clinal trends in phenology and temperature we are able to estimate the temperature sensitivity of selection on lay date (B), but our estimates are highly sensitive to the temporal position of the sliding-window. If the sliding-window is of fixed duration with a start date determined by photoperiod we find B is tracked by phenotypic plasticity. If, instead, we allow the start and duration of the sliding-window to change with latitude, we find plasticity does not track B, though at odds with theoretical expectations, our estimates of B differ across latitude versus longitude. We argue that a model combining photoperiod and mean temperature is most consistent with current understanding of phenological cues in passerines, the results of which suggest that each species could respond to projected increases in spring temperatures through plasticity alone. However, our estimates of B require further validation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Early online date13 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2016


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