Specialists and generalists often coexist within a single population, but the biological drivers of individual strategies are not fully resolved. When sexes differ in their foraging strategy, this can lead them to different environmental conditions and stability across their habitat range. As such, sexual segregation, combined with dominance, may lead to varying levels of specialization between the sexes. Here, we examine spatial and temporal niche width (intraindividual variability in aspects of foraging behaviour) of male and female black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys), and its consequences for fitness. We show that females, where maximum foraging range is under fluctuating selection, exhibit more variable behaviours and appear more generalist than males, who are under directional selection to forage close to the colony. However within each sex, successful birds had a much narrower niche width across most behaviours, suggesting some specialization is adaptive in both sexes. These results demonstrate that while there are sex differences in niche width, the fitness benefit of specialization in spatial distribution is strong in this wide-ranging seabird.
Exploitation of the seas is currently unsustainable, with increasing demand for marine resources placing intense pressure on the Earth's largest ecosystem . The scale of anthropogenic effects varies from local to entire ocean basins [1-3]. For example, discards of commercial capture fisheries can have both positive and negative impacts on scavengers at the population and community-level [2-6], although this is driven by individual foraging behaviour [3,7]. Currently, we have little understanding of the scale at which individual animals initiate such behaviours. We use the known interaction between fisheries and a wide-ranging seabird, the Northern gannet Morus bassanus, to investigate how fishing vessels affect individual birds' behaviours in near real-time. We document the footprint of fishing vessels' (?15 m length) influence on foraging decisions (?11 km), and a potential underlying behavioural mechanism, by revealing how birds respond differently to vessels depending on gear type and activity. Such influences have important implications for fisheries, including the proposed discard ban ), and wider marine management.
The temperate waters of the North-Eastern Atlantic have a long history of maritime resource richness and, as a result, the European Union is endeavouring to maintain regional productivity and biodiversity. At the intersection of these aims lies potential conflict, signalling the need for integrated, cross-border management approaches. This paper focuses on the marine megafauna of the region. This guild of consumers was formerly abundant, but is now depleted and protected under various national and international legislative structures. We present a meta-analysis of available megafauna datasets using presence-only distribution models to characterise suitable habitat and identify spatially-important regions within the English Channel and southern bight of the North Sea. The integration of studies from dedicated and opportunistic observer programmes in the United Kingdom and France provide a valuable perspective on the spatial and seasonal distribution of various taxonomic groups, including large pelagic fishes and sharks, marine mammals, seabirds and marine turtles. The Western English Channel emerged as a hotspot of biodiversity for megafauna, while species richness was low in the Eastern English Channel. Spatial conservation planning is complicated by the highly mobile nature of marine megafauna, however they are important components of the marine environment and understanding their distribution is a first crucial step toward their inclusion into marine ecosystem management.
While personality differences in animals are defined as consistent behavioural variation between individuals, the widely studied field of foraging specialisation in marine vertebrates has rarely been addressed within this framework. However there is much overlap between the two fields, both aiming to measure the causes and consequences of consistent individual behaviour. Here for the first time we use both a classic measure of personality, the response to a novel object, and an estimate of foraging strategy, derived from GPS data, to examine individual personality differences in black browed albatross and their consequences for fitness. First, we examine the repeatability of personality scores and link these to variation in foraging habitat. Bolder individuals forage nearer the colony, in shallower regions, whereas shyer birds travel further from the colony, and fed in deeper oceanic waters. Interestingly, neither personality score predicted a bird's overlap with fisheries. Second, we show that both personality scores are correlated with fitness consequences, dependent on sex and year quality. Our data suggest that shyer males and bolder females have higher fitness, but the strength of this relationship depends on year quality. Females who forage further from the colony have higher breeding success in poor quality years, whereas males foraging close to the colony always have higher fitness. Together these results highlight the potential importance of personality variation in seabirds and that the fitness consequences of boldness and foraging strategy may be highly sex dependent.
Colonial breeding is widespread among animals. Some, such as eusocial insects, may use agonistic behavior to partition available foraging habitat into mutually exclusive territories; others, such as breeding seabirds, do not. We found that northern gannets, satellite-tracked from 12 neighboring colonies, nonetheless forage in largely mutually exclusive areas and that these colony-specific home ranges are determined by density-dependent competition. This segregation may be enhanced by individual-level public information transfer, leading to cultural evolution and divergence among colonies.
Animal personalities, composed of axes of consistent individual behaviors, are widely reported and can have important fitness consequences. However, despite theoretical predictions that life-history trade-offs may cause and maintain personality differences, our understanding of the evolutionary ecology of personality remains poor, especially in long-lived species where trade-offs and senescence have been shown to be stronger. Furthermore, although much theoretical and empirical work assumes selection shapes variation in personalities, studies exploring the genetic underpinnings of personality traits are rare. Here we study one standard axis of personality, the shy-bold continuum, in a long-lived marine species, the wandering albatross from Possession Island, Crozet, by measuring the behavioral response to a human approach. Using generalized linear mixed models in a Bayesian framework, we show that boldness is highly repeatable and heritable. We also find strong differences in boldness between breeding colonies, which vary in size and density, suggesting birds are shyer in more dense colonies. These results demonstrate that in this seabird population, boldness is both heritable and repeatable and highlights the potential for ecological and evolutionary processes to shape personality traits in species with varying life-history strategies.
The assessment of genetic architecture and selection history in genes for behavioural traits is fundamental to our understanding of how these traits evolve. The dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene is a prime candidate for explaining genetic variation in novelty seeking behaviour, a commonly assayed personality trait in animals. Previously, we showed that a single nucleotide polymorphism in exon 3 of this gene is associated with exploratory behaviour in at least one of four Western European great tit (Parus major) populations. These heterogeneous association results were explained by potential variable linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns between this marker and the causal variant or by other genetic or environmental differences among the populations. Different adaptive histories are further hypothesized to have contributed to these population differences. Here, we genotyped 98 polymorphisms of the complete DRD4 gene including the flanking regions for 595 individuals of the four populations. We show that the LD structure, specifically around the original exon 3 SNP is conserved across the four populations and does not explain the heterogeneous association results. Study-wide significant associations with exploratory behaviour were detected in more than one haplotype block around exon 2, 3 and 4 in two of the four tested populations with different allele effect models. This indicates genetic heterogeneity in the association between multiple DRD4 polymorphisms and exploratory behaviour across populations. The association signals were in or close to regions with signatures of positive selection. We therefore hypothesize that variation in exploratory and other dopamine-related behaviour evolves locally by occasional adaptive shifts in the frequency of underlying genetic variants.
Commercial capture fisheries produce huge quantities of offal, as well as undersized and unwanted catch in the form of discards. Declines in global catches and legislation to ban discarding will significantly reduce discards, but this subsidy supports a large scavenger community. Understanding the potential impact of declining discards for scavengers should feature in an eco-system based approach to fisheries management, but requires greater knowledge of scavenger/fishery interactions. Here we use bird-borne cameras, in tandem with GPS loggers, to provide a unique view of seabird/fishery interactions. 20,643 digital images (one min(-1)) from ten bird-borne cameras deployed on central place northern gannets Morus bassanus revealed that all birds photographed fishing vessels. These were large (>15 m) boats, with no small-scale vessels. Virtually all vessels were trawlers, and gannets were almost always accompanied by other scavenging birds. All individuals exhibited an Area-Restricted Search (ARS) during foraging, but only 42% of ARS were associated with fishing vessels, indicating much natural foraging. The proportion of ARS behaviours associated with fishing boats were higher for males (81%) than females (30%), although the reasons for this are currently unclear. Our study illustrates that fisheries form a very important component of the prey-landscape for foraging gannets and that a discard ban, such as that proposed under reforms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, may have a significant impact on gannet behaviour, particularly males. However, a continued reliance on natural foraging suggests the ability to switch away from scavenging, but only if there is sufficient food to meet their needs in the absence of a discard subsidy.
Understanding causes of variation in promiscuity within populations remain a major challenge. While most studies have focused on quantifying fitness costs and benefits of promiscuous behaviour, an alternative possibility--that variation in promiscuity within populations is maintained because of linkage with other traits-has received little attention. Here, we examine whether promiscuity in male and female great tits (Parus major)--quantified as extra-pair paternity (EPP) within and between nests--is associated with variation in a well-documented personality trait: exploration behaviour in a novel environment. Exploration behaviour has been shown to correlate with activity levels, risk-taking and boldness, and these are behaviours that may plausibly influence EPP. Exploration behaviour correlated positively with paternity gained outside the social pair among males in our population, but there was also a negative correlation with paternity in the social nest. Hence, while variation in male personality predicted the relative importance of paternity gain within and outside the pair bond, total paternity gained was unrelated to exploration behaviour. We found evidence that males paired with bold females were more likely to sire extra-pair young. Our data thus demonstrate a link between personality and promiscuity, with no net effects on reproductive success, suggesting personality-dependent mating tactics, in contrast with traditional adaptive explanations for promiscuity.
1. Interest in the evolutionary origin and maintenance of individual behavioural variation and behavioural plasticity has increased in recent years. 2. Consistent individual behavioural differences imply limited behavioural plasticity, but the proximate causes and wider consequences of this potential constraint remain poorly understood. To date, few attempts have been made to explore whether individual variation in behavioural plasticity exists, either within or between populations. 3. We assayed exploration behaviour among wild-caught individual great tits Parus major when exposed to a novel environment room in four populations across Europe. We quantified levels of individual variation within and between populations in average behaviour, and in behavioural plasticity with respect to (i) repeated exposure to the room (test sequence), (ii) the time of year in which the assays were conducted and (iii) the interval between successive tests, all of which indicate habituation to novelty and are therefore of functional significance. 4. Consistent individual differences (I) in behaviour were present in all populations; repeatability (range: 0.34-0.42) did not vary between populations. Exploration behaviour was also plastic, increasing with test sequence - but less so when the interval between subsequent tests was relatively large - and time of year; populations differed in the magnitude of plasticity with respect to time of year and test interval. Finally, the between-individual variance in exploration behaviour increased significantly from first to repeat tests in all populations. Individuals with high initial scores showed greater increases in exploration score than individuals with low initial scores; individual by environment interaction (I × E) with respect to test sequence did not vary between populations. 5. Our findings imply that individual variation in both average level of behaviour and behavioural plasticity may generally characterize wild great tit populations and may largely be shaped by mechanisms acting within populations. Experimental approaches are now needed to confirm that individual differences in behavioural plasticity (habituation) - not other hidden biological factors - caused the observed patterns of I × E. Establishing the evolutionary causes and consequences of this variation in habituation to novelty constitutes an exciting future challenge.
In biparental systems, members of the same pair can vary substantially in the amount of parental care they provide to offspring. The extent of this asymmetry should depend on the relative costs and benefits of care. Individual variation in personality is likely to influence this trade-off, and hence is a promising candidate to explain differences in care. In addition, plasticity in parental care may also be associated with personality differences. Using exploration behaviour (EB) as a measure of personality, we investigated these possibilities using both natural and experimental data from a wild population of great tits (Parus major). Contrary to predictions, we found no association between EB and natural variation in provisioning behaviour. Nor was EB linked to responsiveness to experimentally increased brood demand. These results are initially surprising given substantial data from other studies suggesting personality should influence investment in parental care. However, they are consistent with a recent study showing selection on EB is weak and highly context-specific in the focal population. This emphasises the difficulty faced by personality studies attempting to make predictions based on previous work, given that personalities often vary among populations of the same species.
1. Dispersal is a key process in population biology and ecology. Although the general ecological conditions that lead to dispersal have been well studied, the causes of individual variation in dispersal are less well understood. A number of recent studies suggest that heritable temperament - or personality - traits are correlated with dispersal in the wild but the extent to which these personality-dispersal syndromes are general, how they depend on an individuals state and on spatial scale and whether they are temporally stable, both within and across individuals, remains unclear. 2. Here, we examine the relationship between exploration behaviour - an axis of personality that appears to be important in animals generally - and a variety of dispersal processes over 6 years in a population of the great tit Parus major. 3. Exploration behaviour was higher in immigrant than in locally born juveniles, but the difference was much larger for individuals with a small body mass, though independent of sex, representing one of the first examples of a state-dependent effect in a personality-dispersal syndrome. 4. Despite a temporal trend in exploration behaviour at the population level, the difference between immigrants and locally born birds remained stable over time, both across and within individuals. This suggests that the personality difference between immigrants and locally born birds is established early in development, but that the process of immigration interacts with both personality and state. 5. We found that the number of immigrant parents a locally born bird had did not influence exploration behaviour, suggesting either the difference between immigrants and residents was environmental or that the effect is overridden by local environmental sources of variation. 6. In contrast to previous work, we found no evidence for links between personality and natal dispersal distance within the population, either in terms of an individuals own exploration behaviour or that of its parents. 7. Our results suggest that there are links between individual differences in personality and dispersal, but that these can be dependent on differences in state among individuals and on the scale over which dispersal is measured. Future work should aim to understand the differences between dispersal within and between populations and the ways in which personality and state interact to determine the outcome of these processes.
In many socially monogamous animals, females engage in extrapair copulation (EPC), causing some broods to contain both within-pair and extrapair young (EPY). The proportion of all young that are EPY varies across populations and species. Because an EPC that does not result in EPY leaves no forensic trace, this variation in the proportion of EPY reflects both variation in the tendency to engage in EPC and variation in the extrapair fertilization (EPF) process across populations and species. We analyzed data on the distribution of EPY in broods of four passerines (blue tit, great tit, collared flycatcher, and pied flycatcher), with 18,564 genotyped nestlings from 2,346 broods in two to nine populations per species. Our Bayesian modeling approach estimated the underlying probability function of EPC (assumed to be a Poisson function) and conditional binomial EPF probability. We used an information theoretical approach to show that the expected distribution of EPC per female varies across populations but that EPF probabilities vary on the above-species level (tits vs. flycatchers). Hence, for these four passerines, our model suggests that the probability of an EPC mainly is determined by ecological (population-specific) conditions, whereas EPF probabilities reflect processes that are fixed above the species level.
Polymorphisms in the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4) have been related to individual variation in novelty-seeking or exploratory behaviour in a variety of animals, including humans. Recently, the human DRD4 orthologue was sequenced in a wild bird, the great tit (Parus major) and a single nucleotide polymorphism in exon 3 of this gene (SNP830) was shown to be associated with variation in exploratory behaviour of lab-raised individuals originating from a single wild population. Here we test the generality of this finding in a large sample of free-living individuals from four European great tit populations, including the originally sampled population. We demonstrate that the association between SNP830 genotype and exploratory behaviour also exists in free-living birds from the original population. However, in the other three populations we found only limited evidence for an association: in two populations the association appeared absent; while in one there was a nonsignificant tendency. We could not confirm a previously demonstrated interaction with another DRD4 polymorphism, a 15 bp indel in the promoter region (ID15). As yet unknown differences in genetic or environmental background could explain why the same genetic polymorphism (SNP830) has a substantial effect on exploratory behaviour in one population, explaining 4.5-5.8% of the total variance-a large effect for a single gene influencing a complex behavioural trait-but not in three others. The confirmation of an association between SNP830 genotype and personality-related behaviour in a wild bird population warrants further research into potential fitness effects of the polymorphism, while also the population differences in the strength of the association deserve further investigation. Another important future challenge is the identification of additional loci influencing avian personality traits in the wild.
1. Temperament traits increasingly provide a focus for investigating the evolutionary ecology of behavioural variation. Here, we examine the underlying causes and selective consequences of individual variation in the temperament trait exploration behaviour in a novel environment (EB, based on an 8-min assay) in a free-ranging population of a passerine bird, the great tit Parus major. 2. First, we conducted a quantitative genetic analysis on EB using a restricted maximum likelihood-based animal model with a long-term pedigree. Although repeatability was relatively high, EB was only moderately heritable and permanent environment (V(PE)) effects contributed as much to phenotypic variance as additive genetic effects. 3. We then asked whether heterogeneous selection acted on EB at various temporal and spatial scales. Using estimates of lifetime reproductive success, we found evidence of weak negative directional selection acting on EB amongst females which was driven by selection through recruitment, but not fecundity, in one of the four breeding years. There was no evidence of any selection on EB through survival. 4. Heterogeneous selection on EB within seasons was also observed amongst males through fecundity along two fine-scale environmental gradients--local breeding density and habitat quality; we are unaware of any previous equivalent demonstrations. 5. All of these analyses were repeated on a second measure of exploration behaviour (EB(2), measured during a 2-min assay) to facilitate comparison with other studies. EB and EB(2) were strongly correlated to one another at the genetic level, but were only moderately correlated at the phenotypic level and V(PE) was undetected in EB(2). Selection on EB(2) was similar to that on EB; we conclude that both traits are broadly equivalent from an evolutionary perspective. 6. Our analyses suggest that to the extent that the temperament trait exploration behaviour is subject to natural selection in this population, this selection is highly context dependent and most evident along two environmental gradients. Furthermore, the strong V(PE) effect detected suggests that understanding the causes and consequences of variation in this trait will require studies firmly embedded in an environmental context.
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