Individual consistency and phenotypic plasticity in rockhopper penguins: female but not male body mass links environmental conditions to reproductive investment
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In marine habitats, increasing ocean temperatures due to global climate change may distinctly reduce nutrient and consequently food availability for seabirds. Food availability is a known driver of body mass and reproductive investment in birds, but these traits may also depend on individual effects. Penguins show extreme intra-annual body mass variation and rely on accumulated body reserves for successful breeding. However, no study so far has tested individual consistency and phenotypic responses in body mass and reproductive investment in this taxon. Using a unique dataset on individually marked female and male southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome) across six years, we investigated 1) the individual consistency in body mass (measured at egg laying), body condition and reproductive investment across years, subsequently 2) identified the best-explanatory temperature-related environmental variables for female and male body mass, and 3) tested the effect of female and male body mass on reproductive investment. Body mass, body condition and reproductive investment were all highly repeatable. As body condition should control for the structural size of the birds, the similarly high repeatability estimates for body mass and body condition suggested that the consistent between-individual body mass differences were independent of structural size. This supported the use of body mass for the subsequent analyses. Body mass was higher under colder environmental conditions (positive Southern Annular Mode), but the overall phenotypic response appeared limited. Reproductive investment increased with female but not male body mass. While environmental effects on body mass in our study period were rather small, one can expect that ongoing global climate change will lead to a deterioration of food availability and we might therefore in the long-term expect a phenotypical decline in body mass and reproductive investment.