Meeting Abstract

P1-177  Monday, Jan. 4 15:30  The effect of incubation temperature on Wood Duck duckling behavior HOPE, S.F.*; BECK, M.L.; KENNAMER, R.A.; HOPKINS, W.A.; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Lab; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University shope@vt.edu

Incubation temperature is a critical parental effect that influences offspring quality in egg-laying animals. Unlike most other oviparous species, avian parents regulate incubation temperature through behavior, allowing parents to shape offspring phenotype. For cavity nesting wood ducks (Aix sponsa), slight temperature changes (<1°C) affect duckling morphology and physiology, but it is unknown whether incubation temperature affects offspring behaviors that may be crucial to survival. To investigate this, we incubated wood duck eggs at three different temperatures (35, 35.8, 37°C) and assessed duckling behavior with multiple repeated behavioral trials between 1-15 days post-hatch. We found that incubation temperature affected several behavioral traits. On day 1, fewer ducklings incubated at the lowest temperature successfully exited a nest box in response to wood duck hen call recordings compared to those incubated higher temperatures, which would likely lead to abandonment by the mother in the wild. Additionally, ducklings incubated at the lowest temperature spent more time calling while alone in an unfamiliar environment and were more likely to emerge from a shelter into an unknown environment than those incubated at higher temperatures. These behaviors may help maintain close associations between the mother and her offspring, but may also increase predation risk. Our study provides evidence that the early developmental environment has an effect on avian neonate behavior and offers insight into how non-genomic factors may provide directional selective pressure for behaviors important to early survival.