This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book is primarily about physiological mechanisms, but it also addresses the specific question of what we know about the physiological, metabolic, energetic, and hormonal mechanisms that regulate, and potentially determine, individual, or phenotypic, variation in key reproductive life-history traits, trade-offs between these traits, and trade-offs and carry-over effects between different life-history stages. Initially, it focuses on the avian reproductive cycle (from seasonal gonadal development, through egg-laying and incubation, to chick-rearing), and then it expands this view to consider reproduction in the broader context of the annual cycle and over an individual's entire lifetime. Throughout the book develops two major themes: that we need to consider reproductive physiology and ecology from a female perspective and that we need to consider the causes and consequences of individual (phenotypic) variation in reproductive life-history traits.
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