SPM Journal Club: Fathers matter
Body mass is an important indicator of general condition as it reflects energy accessible for survival and reproduction. Recent evidence show that several species have experienced shifts in their body mass due to climate change. In the monogamous wandering albatross, average body mass and breeding success has increased over the last years. Surprisingly, the increase in breeding success seems to be due to heavier fathers investing more in their sons.
One of the predicted consequences of climate change is a shift in body mass distributions within animal populations. Yet body mass, an important component of the physiological state of an organism, can affect key life-history traits and consequently population dynamics. Over the past decades, the wandering albatross—a pelagic seabird providing bi-parental care with marked sexual size dimorphism—has exhibited an increase in average body mass and breeding success in parallel with experiencing increasing wind speeds. To assess the impact of these changes, we examined how body mass affects five key life-history traits at the individual level: adult survival, breeding probability, breeding success, chick mass and juvenile survival. We found that male mass impacted all traits examined except breeding probability, whereas female mass affected none. Adult male survival increased with increasing mass. Increasing adult male mass increased breeding success and mass of sons but not of daughters. Juvenile male survival increased with their chick mass. These results suggest that a higher investment in sons by fathers can increase their inclusive fitness, which is not the case for daughters. Our study highlights sex-specific differences in the effect of body mass on the life history of a monogamous species with bi-parental care.