Position in the laying order has sex‐specific consequences for reproductive success in adult black‐headed gulls

Kat Bebbington*, Ton Groothuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mothers who produce multiple offspring within one reproductive attempt often allocate resources differentially; some maternally derived substances are preferentially allocated to last-produced offspring and others to first-produced offspring. The combined effect of these different allocation regimes on the overall fitness of offspring produced early or late in the sequence is not well understood, partly because production order is often coupled with birth order, making it difficult-to-separate effects of pre-natal maternal allocation from those of post-natal social environments. In addition, very little is known about the influence of laying order on fitness in later life. In this study, we used a semi-natural captive colony of black-headed gulls to test whether an offspring's position in the laying order affected its early-life survival and later-life reproductive success, independent of its hatching order. Later-laid eggs were less likely to hatch, but among those that did, survival to adulthood was greater than that of first-laid eggs. In adulthood, the laying order of females did not affect their likelihood of breeding in the colony, but male offspring hatched from last-laid eggs were significantly less likely to gain a breeding position than earlier-laid males. In contrast, later-laid female parents hatched lower proportions of their clutches than first-laid females, but hatching success was unrelated to the laying order of male parents. Our results indicate that gull mothers induce complex and sex-specific effects on both the early survival of their offspring and on long-term reproductive success through laying order effects among eggs of the same breeding attempt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-934
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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