Socially induced synchronization of every-other-day egg laying in a seabird colony

Shandelle M. Henson, James L. Hayward, J. M. Cushing, Joseph C. Galusha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Spontaneous oscillator synchrony has been documented in a wide variety of electrical, mechanical, chemical, and biological systems, including the menstrual cycles of women and estrous cycles of Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus). In temperate regions, many colonial birds breed seasonally in a time window set by photoperiod; some studies have suggested that heightened social stimulation in denser colonies can lead to a tightened annual reproductive pulse. It has been unknown, however, whether the analog of menstrual synchrony occurs in birdsthat is, whether avian ovulation cycles can synchronize on a daily timescale within the annual breeding pulse. We report every-other-day clutch-initiation and egg-laying synchrony in a breeding colony of Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens) and show that the level of synchrony declined with decreasing colony density. We also pose a mathematical model based on the hypothesis that preovulatory luteinizing hormone surges synchronize through social stimulation. Model predictions are consistent with observations. Finally, we suggest a procedure for identifying synchronous egg laying in other colonies and species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-580
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Glaucous-winged Gull
  • Larus glaucescens
  • egg laying
  • luteinizing hormone
  • mathematical model
  • ovulation
  • synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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