Little Terns and luck

Subject: Little Terns and luck
From: "John Leonard" <>
Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 23:03:01 +0000
Playing Devil's Advocate here?.

What if, instead of the elaborate model of the fitness of various breeding populations that Simon outlined, the truth was that all members of a species that attain adulthood are at a similar level of fitness, and whether they succeed in breeding, or survive at all, is simply a matter of luck, or unluck?

For example the hail-storm that killed all those Terns, what greater fitness or adaptation, either in behaviour or physiology, could some birds have had that would have allowed them to survive the hail-storm, that would not, in some other stochastic instance, in the long-term, be deleterious to them or their descendents?

In this case all the research of the type advocated by Simon and others would do little good, as the only thing that will give a species a chance of perpetuating itself is sufficient habitat, and sufficient respite from disturbance.

Oh, and the reasoning behind Marilyn's assumption that banding was harmful to the Little Terns is quite understandable:

1. Eight terns out of 30 whatever is a significant proportion;
2. Many more Little Terns are not banded than banded;
3. Therefore a greater proportion of those Terns that were banded were killed compared to those that were not.

Point 2 may be wrong, but the reasoning is not.

John Leonard

John Leonard (Dr)
PO Box 243, Woden, ACT 2606, Australia

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