Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Rebecca J. Safran

Second Advisor

Michael Breed

Third Advisor

Samuel Flaxman

Abstract

Nest predation is the primary cause of reproductive failure in most bird species, and is a powerful source of natural selection. As nest predation is strongly tied to an individual's reproductive performance, the ways in which parents respond to predation risk is likely shaped by natural selection. In particular, species that engage in multiple breeding attempts in a given season are able to modify their breeding strategies through extra-pair mating which might be influenced by predation events. I examined relationships between parental morphological variation, extra-pair mating, and nest predation in the North American barn swallow in order to examine morphological predictors and genetic consequences associated with nest predation in the wild. The findings of this study suggest that parental morphology may play a significant role in nest predation risk and that females may alter the paternity of her offspring after a predation event based on features of her mate's morphology.

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