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Validating morphological condition indices and their relationship with reproductive success in great-tailed grackles
Are condition indices positively related to each other and to fitness?: a test with gracklesRecommended by Marcos Mendez based on reviews by Isabel López-Rull and Javier Seoane
Reproductive succes, as a surrogate of individual fitness, depends both on extrinsic and intrinsic factors . Among the intrinsic factors, resource level or health are considered important potential drivers of fitness but exceedingly difficult to measure directly. Thus, a host of proxies have been suggested, known as condition indices . The question arises whether all condition indices consistently measure the same "inner state" of individuals and whether all of them similarly correlate to individual fitness. In this preregistration, Berens and colleagues aim to answer this question for two common condition indices, fat score and scaled mass index (Fig. 1), using great-tailed grackles as a model system. Although this question is not new, it has not been satisfactorily solved and both reviewers found merit in the attempt to clarify this matter.
Figure 1. Hypothesized relationships between two condition indices and reproductive success. Single arrow heads indicate causal relationships; double arrow heads indicate only correlation. In a best case scenario, all relationships should be positive and linear.
A problem in adressing this question with grackles is limited population, ergo sample, size and limited possibilites of recapture individuals. Some relationships can be missed due to low statistical power. Unfortunately, existing tools for power analysis fall behind complex designs and the one planned for this study. Thus, any potentially non significant relationship has to be taken cautiously. Nevertheless, even if grackles will not provide a definitive answer (they never meant to do it), this preregistration can inspire broader explorations of matches and mismatches across condition indices and species, as well as uncover non-linear relationships with reproductive success.
 Roff, D. A. (2001). Life history evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
 Labocha, M. K.; Hayes, J. P. (2012). Morphometric indices of body condition in birds: a review. Journal of Ornithology 153: 1–22. doi: 10.1007/s10336-011-0706-1