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  1. Explaining why animal groups vary in size is a fundamental problem in behavioral ecology. One hypothesis is that life-history differences among individuals lead to sorting of phenotypes into groups of different sizes where each individual does best. This hypothesis predicts that individuals should be relatively consistent in their use of particular group sizes across time. Little is known about whether animals’ choice of group size is repeatable across their lives, especially in long-lived species. We studied consistency in choice of breeding-colony size in colonially nesting cliff swallows ( Petrochelidon pyrrhonota ) in western Nebraska, United States, over a 32-year period, following 6,296 birds for at least four breeding seasons. Formal repeatability of size choice for the population was about 0.41. About 45% of individuals were relatively consistent in choice of colony size, while about 40% varied widely in the colony size they occupied. Birds using the smaller and larger colonies appeared more consistent in size use than birds occupying more intermediate sized colonies. Consistency in colony size was also influenced by whether a bird used the same physical colony site each year and whether the site had been fumigated to remove ectoparasites. The difference between the final and initial colony sizes for an individual, a measure of the net change in its colony size over its life, did not significantly depart from 0 for the dataset as a whole. However, different year-cohorts did show significant net change in colony size, both positive and negative, that may have reflected fluctuating selection on colony size among years based on climatic conditions. The results support phenotypic sorting as an explanation for group size variation, although cliff swallows also likely use past experience at a given site and the extent of ectoparasitism to select breeding colonies. 
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  2. Abstract

    The survival of insects that are dormant in winter may either increase or decrease as a consequence of elevated winter temperatures under climate change. Warming can be deleterious when metabolism of the overwintering life stages increases to the point that energy reserves are exhausted before postoverwintering reemergence. We examined experimentally how overwintering survival of swallow bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae: Cimex vicarius Horvath), an ectoparasite primarily of cliff swallows (Passeriformes: Hirundinidae: Petrochelidon pyrrhonota Vieillot), was affected by a 3°C rise in mean daily temperature for populations in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Adult and nymphal swallow bugs exposed to elevated temperature had an average reduction of approximately 31% in overwintering survival (from July/August to April/May), relative to controls exposed to current region-specific ambient-like conditions. Adult males in both groups survived less well in Nebraska and North Dakota than adult males in Oklahoma, but there was no consistent latitudinal effect of the elevated heat treatment. Our results indicate that projected increases in mean temperature in the Great Plains by 2050 could result in fewer swallow bugs surviving the winter and thus a reduced population size upon the arrival of their primary host in the spring, potentially affecting cliff swallow reproductive success, site use, and breeding phenology. Global climate change may alter the dynamics of host–parasite systems by reducing overall parasite abundance.

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