In an important new study forthcoming from The American Naturalist, biologists from the University of Oxford tracked a colony of mute swans for more than two decades to explore a longstanding evolutionary question: whether the number of eggs laid by a female bird – known as "clutch size" – changes in accordance with natural selection.
"Extensive debate in the literature…was first focused on the question: Why does a populations average clutch size differ from the most productive clutch size?" said researcher Ann Charmantier. "Gradually the debate switched to an evolutionary point of view with a second, related question: Why is clutch size not evolving despite significant heritability and directional selection?"
Many long-term studies of avian clutch size have looked for--but not seen-- an increase in the number of eggs laid. However, this 25-year study of the selection, inheritance, and evolution in the mute swan population of Abbotsbury, England, yielded data on clutch size consistent with the direction predicted by evolutionary theory.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
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