Maternal resource variation across the laying sequence in Canada geese Branta canadensis maxima

Todd A. Boonstra, Mark E. Clark, Wendy L. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Variation in maternal investments to offspring presumably reflects an optimization of resource allocation such that a female's fitness is maximized. In birds, both egg size and yolk constituents are examples of resources that can vary among offspring within a clutch. Egg size and maternally-derived steroid hormone concentrations present in yolk have been characterized for many species that lay small clutches or have altricial young, but little information is available for species that lay moderate to large clutches of precocial young. In this study, we recorded laying position, measured fresh egg mass and determined maternally-derived testosterone and estradiol concentrations present in yolks for whole clutches of free-living Canada geese Branta canadensis maxima to assess variation in maternal resources within clutches. We found that egg size varied non-linearly across the laying sequence such that first laid eggs were small, the largest eggs in the clutch occurred in the second and third positions, and size declined in eggs laid in subsequent positions. Concentration of testosterone in the yolk followed a pattern in which the first and second laid eggs have the highest concentrations within a clutch and declining concentrations in subsequently laid eggs. In contrast, maternally-derived yolk estradiol concentrations (measured in a subset of clutches) did not change across the laying sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


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