Seasonal reproductive tactics: Annual timing and the capital-to-income breeder continuum

Cory T. Williams, Marcel Klaassen, Brian M. Barnes, C. Loren Buck, Walter Arnold, Sylvain Giroud, Sebastian G. Vetter, Thomas Ruf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Tactics of resource use for reproduction are an important feature of life-history strategies. A distinction is made between ‘capital’ breeders, which finance reproduction using stored energy, and ‘income’ breeders, which pay for reproduction using concurrent energy intake. In reality, vertebrates use a continuum of capital-to-income tactics, and, for many species, the allocation of capital towards reproduction is a plastic trait. Here, we review how trophic interactions and the timing of life-history events are influenced by tactics of resource use in birds and mammals. We first examine how plasticity in the allocation of capital towards reproduction is linked to phenological flexibility via interactions between endocrine/neuroendocrine control systems and the sensory circuits that detect changes in endogenous state, and environmental cues.We then describe the ecological drivers of reproductive timing in species that vary in the degree to which they finance reproduction using capital. Capital can be used either as a mechanism to facilitate temporal synchrony between energy supply and demand or as a means of lessening the need for synchrony. Within many species, an individual’s ability to cope with environmental change may be more tightly linked to plasticity in resource allocation than to absolute position on the capital-to-income breeder continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20160250
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1734
StatePublished - Nov 19 2017


  • Capital breeding
  • Income breeding
  • Life-history
  • Phenology
  • Resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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