Individual spatial consistency and dietary flexibility in the migratory behaviour of northern gannets wintering in the Northeast Atlantic

Grecian, W. J. et al. (2019) Individual spatial consistency and dietary flexibility in the migratory behaviour of northern gannets wintering in the Northeast Atlantic. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 214. (doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00214)

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Migration is a fundamental behavioral process prevalent among a wide variety of animal taxa. As individuals are increasingly shown to present consistent responses to environmental cues for breeding or foraging, it may be expected that approaches to migration would present similar among-individual consistencies. Seabirds frequently show consistent individual differences in a range of traits related to foraging and space-use during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons, but the causes and consequences of this consistency are poorly understood. In this study, we combined analysis of geolocation and stable isotope data across multiple years to investigate individual variation in the non-breeding movements and diets of northern gannets Morus bassanus, and the consequences for changes in body condition. We found that individuals were highly repeatable in their non-breeding destination over consecutive years even though the population-level non-breeding distribution spanned >35° of latitude. Isotopic signatures were also strongly repeatable, with individuals assigned to one of two dietary clusters defined by their distinct trophic (δ15N) and spatial (δ13C) position. The only non-breeding destination in which the two dietary clusters co-occurred was off the coast of northwest Africa. The majority of individuals adopted a consistent foraging strategy, as they remained within the same dietary cluster across years, with little variation in body mass corrected for size among these consistent individuals. In contrast, the few individuals that switched clusters between years were in better condition relative to the rest of the population, suggesting there may be benefits to flexibility during the non-breeding period. Our results indicate that a consistent migratory strategy can be effective regardless of wintering region or diet, but that there may be benefits to those individuals able to display flexibility. This appears to be an important behavioral strategy that may enhance individual condition.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Newton, Dr Jason and Wakefield, Dr Ewan
Authors: Grecian, W. J., Williams, H. J., Votier, S. C., Bearhop, S., Cleasby, I. R., Grémillet, D., Hamer, K. C., Le Nuz, M., Lescroël, A., Newton, J., Patrick, S. C., Phillips, R. A., Wakefield, E. D., and Bodey, T. W.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN (Online):2296-701X
Published Online:12 June 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Grecian, Williams, Votier, Bearhop, Cleasby, Grémillet, Hamer, Le Nuz, Lescroël, Newton, Patrick, Phillips, Wakefield and Bodey
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:214
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
685021Seabirds and wind - the consequences of extreme prey taxis in a changing climateEwan WakefieldNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/M017990/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED