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Ashmole's hypothesis and the latitudinal gradient in clutch size

March 22, 2021

One enduring priority for ecologists has been to understand the cause(s) of variation in reproductive effort among species and localities. Avian clutch size generally increases with increasing latitude, both within and across species, but the mechanism(s) driving that pattern continue to generate hypotheses and debate. In 1961, a Ph.D. student at Oxford University, N. Philip Ashmole, proposed the influential hypothesis that clutch size varies in direct proportion to the seasonality of resources available to a population. Ashmole's hypothesis has been widely cited and discussed in the ecological literature. However, misinterpretation and confusion has been common regarding the mechanism that underlies Ashmole's hypothesis and the testable predictions it generates. We review the development of well-known hypotheses to explain clutch size variation with an emphasis on Ashmole's hypothesis. We then discuss and clarify sources of confusion about Ashmole's hypothesis in the literature, summarise existing evidence in support and refutation of the hypothesis, and suggest some under-utilised and novel approaches to test Ashmole's hypothesis and gain an improved understanding of the mechanisms responsible for variation in avian clutch size and fecundity, and life-history evolution in general.

Publication Year 2021
Title Ashmole's hypothesis and the latitudinal gradient in clutch size
DOI 10.1111/brv.12705
Authors Carl G. Lundblad, Courtney J. Conway
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Reviews
Index ID 70229067
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle