The onset of migration in birds is assumed to be primarily under endogenous control in long-distance migrants. Recently, climate changes appear to have been driving a rapid change in breeding area arrival. However, little is known about the climatic factors affecting migratory birds during the migration cycle, or whether recently reported phenological changes are caused by plastic behavioural responses or evolutionary change. Here, we investigate how environmental conditions in the wintering areas as well as en route towards breeding areas affect timing of migration. Using data from 1984 to 2004 covering the entire migration period every year from observatories located in the Middle East and northern Europe, we show that passage of the Sahara Desert is delayed and correlated with improved conditions in the wintering areas. By contrast, migrants travel more rapidly through Europe, and adjust their breeding area arrival time in response to improved environmental conditions en route. Previous studies have reported opposing results from a different migration route through the Mediterranean region (Italy). We argue that the simplest explanation for different phenological patterns at different latitudes and between migratory routes appears to be phenotypic responses to spatial variability in conditions en route.
birds; migration; phenology; climate change; normalized difference vegetation index
Soaring birds that undertake long-distance migration should develop strategies to minimize the energetic costs of endurance flight. This is relevant because condition upon completion of migration has direct consequences for fecundity, fitness and thus, demography. Therefore, strong evolutionary pressures are expected for energy minimization tactics linked to weather and topography. Importantly, the minute-by-minute mechanisms birds use to subsidize migration in variable weather are largely unknown, in large part because of the technological limitations in studying detailed long-distance bird flight. Here, we show golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) migratory response to changing meteorological conditions as monitored by high-resolution telemetry. In contrast to expectations, responses to meteorological variability were stereotyped across the 10 individuals studied. Eagles reacted to increased wind speed by using more orographic lift and less thermal lift. Concomitantly, as use of thermals decreased, variation in flight speed and altitude also decreased. These results demonstrate how soaring migrant birds can minimize energetic expenditures, they show the context for avian decisions and choices of specific instantaneous flight mechanisms and they have important implications for design of bird-friendly wind energy.
movement ecology; flight behaviour; migration; flight response; high-resolution GPS–GSM telemetry
Seasonal long-distance migration is likely to be experienced in a contrasted manner by juvenile, immature and adult birds, leading to variations in migratory routes, timing and behaviour. We provide the first analysis of late summer movements and autumn migration in these three life stages, which were tracked concurrently using satellite tags, geolocators or GPS recorders in a long-ranging migratory seabird, the Scopoli’s shearwater (formerly named Cory’s shearwater, Calonectrisdiomedea) breeding on two French Mediterranean islands. During the late breeding season, immatures foraged around their colony like breeding adults, but they were the only group showing potential prospecting movements around non-natal colonies. Global migration routes were broadly comparable between the two populations and the three life stages, with all individuals heading towards the Atlantic Ocean through the strait of Gibraltar and travelling along the West African coast, up to 8000 km from their colony. However, detailed comparison of timing, trajectory and oceanographic conditions experienced by the birds revealed remarkable age-related differences. Compared to adults and immatures, juveniles made a longer stop-over in the Balearic Sea (10 days vs 4 days in average), showed lower synchrony in crossing the Gibraltar strait, had more sinuous pathways and covered longer daily distances (240 km.d-1 vs 170 km.d-1). Analysis of oceanographic habitats along migratory routes revealed funnelling selection of habitat towards coastal and more productive waters with increasing age. Younger birds may have reduced navigational ability and learn progressively fine-scale migration routes towards the more profitable travelling and wintering areas. Our study demonstrates the importance of tracking long-lived species through the stages, to better understand migratory behavior and assess differential exposure to at-sea threats. Shared distribution between life stages and populations make Scopoli’s shearwaters particularly vulnerable to extreme mortality events in autumn and winter. Such knowledge is key for the conservation of critical marine habitats.
Long-distance migrants have developed diverse strategies to deal with the challenges imposed by their annual journeys. These are relatively well studied in some avian groups, such as passerines, shorebirds and raptors. In contrast, few studies have addressed the migratory behaviour of pelagic birds in the light of current theories of optimal migration. Using a dataset of 100 complete migratory tracks gathered along four years, we performed a detailed study on the migratory strategy of a pelagic trans-equatorial migrant, the Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea. We analysed daily routines, stopover ecology and travel speed, as well as the influence of the moon on several behavioural patterns. Cory’s shearwaters adopted a “fly-and-forage” strategy when migrating, similarly to what has been observed in some raptors. However, by flying by dynamic soaring, shearwaters attained high overall migration speeds, and were able to travel thousands of kilometres without making major stopovers and, apparently, without a noticeable pre-migratory fattening period. Other major findings of this study include the ability to adapt daily schedules when crossing major ecological barriers, and the constant adjustment of migration speed implying higher rates of travel in the pre-breeding movement, with a final sprint to the nesting colony. The present study also highlights a preference of Cory’s shearwaters for starting travel at twilight and documents a strong relationship between their migratory activity and the moon phase.
The hormone corticosterone (CORT) is an important component of a bird’s response to environmental stress, but it can also have negative effects. Therefore, birds on migration are hypothesized to have repressed stress responses (migration-modulation hypothesis). In contrast to earlier studies on long-distance migrants, we evaluate this hypothesis in a population containing both migratory and resident individuals. We use a population of partially migratory blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) in southern Sweden as a model species. Migrants had higher CORT levels at the time of capture than residents, indicating migratory preparations, adaptation to stressors, higher allostatic load or possibly low social status. Migrants and residents had the same stress response, thus contradicting the migration-modulation hypothesis. We suggest that migrants travelling short distances are more benefited than harmed by retaining the ability to respond to stress.
stress; corticosterone; partial migration
The need to balance energy reserves during migration is a critical factor for most long-distance migrants and an important determinant of migratory strategies in birds, insects and land mammals. Large baleen whales migrate annually between foraging and breeding sites, crossing vast ocean areas where food is seldom abundant. How whales respond to the demands and constraints of such long migrations remains unknown. We applied a behaviour discriminating hierarchical state-space model to the satellite tracking data of 12 fin whales and 3 blue whales tagged off the Azores, to investigate their movements, behaviour (transiting and area-restricted search, ARS) and daily activity cycles during the spring migration. Fin and blue whales remained at middle latitudes for prolonged periods, spending most of their time there in ARS behaviour. While near the Azores, fin whale ARS behaviour occurred within a restricted area, with a high degree of overlap among whales. There were noticeable behavioural differences along the migratory pathway of fin whales tracked to higher latitudes: ARS occurred only in the Azores and north of 56°N, whereas in between these areas whales travelled at higher overall speeds while maintaining a nearly direct trajectory. This suggests fin whales may alternate periods of active migration with periods of extended use of specific habitats along the migratory route. ARS behaviour in blue whales occurred over a much wider area as whales slowly progressed northwards. The tracks of these whales terminated still at middle latitudes, before any behavioural switch was detected. Fin whales exhibited behavioural-specific diel rhythms in swimming speed but these varied significantly between geographic areas, possibly due to differences in the day-night cycle across areas. Finally, we show a link between fin whales seen in the Azores and those summering in eastern Greenland-western Iceland along a migratory corridor located in central Atlantic waters.
Long-distance migration, and the study of the migrants who undertake these journeys, has fascinated generations of biologists. However, many aspects of the annual cycles of these migrants remain a mystery as do many of the driving forces behind the evolution and maintenance of the migrations themselves. In this article we discuss nutritional, energetic, temporal and disease-risk bottlenecks in the annual cycle of long-distance migrants, taking a sandpiper, the red knot Calidris canutus, as a focal species. Red knots have six recognized subspecies each with different migratory routes, well-known patterns of connectivity and contrasting annual cycles. The diversity of red knot annual cycles allows us to discuss the existence and the effects of bottlenecks in a comparative framework. We examine the evidence for bottlenecks focusing on the quality of breeding plumage and the timing of moult as indicators in the six subspecies. In terms of breeding plumage coloration, quality and timing of prealternate body moult (from non-breeding into breeding plumage), the longest migrating knot subspecies, Calidris canutus rogersi and Calidris canutus rufa, show the greatest impact of bottlenecking. The same is true in terms of prebasic body moult (from breeding into non-breeding plumage) which in case of both C. c. rogersi and C. c. rufa overlaps with southward migration and may even commence in the breeding grounds. To close our discussion of bottlenecks in long-distance migrants, we make predictions about how migrants might be impacted via physiological ‘trade-offs’ throughout the annual cycle, using investment in immune function as an example. We also predict how bottlenecks may affect the distribution of mortality throughout the annual cycle. We hope that this framework will be applicable to other species and types of migrants, thus expanding the comparative database for the future evaluation of seasonal selection pressures and the evolution of annual cycles in long-distance migrants. Furthermore, we hope that this synthesis of recent advancements in the knowledge of red knot annual cycles will prove useful in the ongoing attempts to model annual cycles in migratory birds.
red knot; Calidris canutus; migration; annual cycle; plumage; moult
Vast numbers of insects and passerines achieve long-distance migrations between summer and winter locations by undertaking high-altitude nocturnal flights. Insects such as noctuid moths fly relatively slowly in relation to the surrounding air, with airspeeds approximately one-third of that of passerines. Thus, it has been widely assumed that windborne insect migrants will have comparatively little control over their migration speed and direction compared with migrant birds. We used radar to carry out the first comparative analyses of the flight behaviour and migratory strategies of insects and birds under nearly equivalent natural conditions. Contrary to expectations, noctuid moths attained almost identical ground speeds and travel directions compared with passerines, despite their very different flight powers and sensory capacities. Moths achieved fast travel speeds in seasonally appropriate migration directions by exploiting favourably directed winds and selecting flight altitudes that coincided with the fastest air streams. By contrast, passerines were less selective of wind conditions, relying on self-powered flight in their seasonally preferred direction, often with little or no tailwind assistance. Our results demonstrate that noctuid moths and passerines show contrasting risk-prone and risk-averse migratory strategies in relation to wind. Comparative studies of the flight behaviours of distantly related taxa are critically important for understanding the evolution of animal migration strategies.
seasonal migration; songbirds; Lepidoptera; Autographa gamma; flight speed; orientation
Navigational control of avian migration is understood, largely from the study of terrestrial birds, to depend on either genetically or culturally inherited information. By tracking the individual migrations of Atlantic Puffins, Fratercula arctica, in successive years using geolocators, we describe migratory behaviour in a pelagic seabird that is apparently incompatible with this view. Puffins do not migrate to a single overwintering area, but follow a dispersive pattern of movements changing through the non-breeding period, showing great variability in travel distances and directions. Despite this within-population variability, individuals show remarkable consistency in their own migratory routes among years. This combination of complex population dispersion and individual route fidelity cannot easily be accounted for in terms of genetic inheritance of compass instructions, or cultural inheritance of traditional routes. We suggest that a mechanism of individual exploration and acquired navigational memory may provide the dominant control over Puffin migration, and potentially some other pelagic seabirds, despite the apparently featureless nature of the ocean.
This study tested the potential influence of meteorological parameters (temperature, humidity, wind direction, thermal convection) on different migration characteristics (namely flight speed, altitude and direction and daily distance) in 16 black storks (Ciconia nigra). The birds were tracked by satellite during their entire autumnal and spring migration, from 1998 to 2006. Our data reveal that during their 27-day-long migration between Europe and Africa (mean distance of 4100 km), the periods of maximum flight activity corresponded to periods of maximum thermal energy, underlining the importance of atmospheric thermal convection in the migratory flight of the black stork. In some cases, tailwind was recorded at the same altitude and position as the birds, and was associated with a significant rise in flight speed, but wind often produced a side azimuth along the birds' migratory route. Whatever the season, the distance travelled daily was on average shorter in Europe than in Africa, with values of 200 and 270 km d−1, respectively. The fastest instantaneous flight speeds of up to 112 km h−1 were also observed above Africa. This observation confirms the hypothesis of thermal-dependant flight behaviour, and also reveals differences in flight costs between Europe and Africa. Furthermore, differences in food availability, a crucial factor for black storks during their flight between Europe and Africa, may also contribute to the above-mentioned shift in daily flight speeds.
endangered species; black stork; satellite tracking; migration; meteorological conditions
Migrating birds often complete long non-stop flights during which body energy stores exclusively support energetic demands. The metabolic correlates of such long-distance travel in free-living migrants are as yet poorly studied. Bar-tailed godwits, Limosa lapponica taymyrensis, undertake a 4500 km flight to their single spring stopover site and thus provide an excellent model in which to determine the energy fuels associated with endurance travel. To this end, we evaluated plasma concentrations of six key metabolites in arriving godwits caught immediately upon landing near their stopover site. Initial metabolite levels were compared with levels after 5 h of inactive rest to determine how flight per se affects energy metabolism. Birds refuelling on the stopover site were also examined. Arriving godwits displayed elevated plasma free fatty acids, glycerol and butyrate, confirming the importance of lipid fuel in the support of extended migratory activity. Furthermore, elevated plasma triglycerides in these birds suggest that fatty acid provisioning is facilitated through hepatic synthesis and release of neutral lipids, as previously hypothesized for small migrants with high mass-specific metabolic rates. Finally, elevations in plasma uric acid suggest that protein breakdown contributes to the support of long-distance movement, to possibly maintain citric acid cycle intermediates, gluconeogenesis and/or water balance.
migration; plasma metabolites; energy fuel; flight; stopover
In most bird species timing of breeding affects reproductive success whereby early breeding is favoured. In migratory species migration time, especially arrival at the breeding grounds, and breeding time are expected to be correlated. Consequently, migration time should also have fitness consequences. However, in contrast to breeding time, evidence for fitness consequences of migration time is much more limited. Climate change has been shown to negatively affect the synchrony between trophic levels thereby leading to directional selection on timing but again direct evidence in avian migration time is scarce. We here analysed fitness consequences of migration and breeding time in great cormorants and tested whether climate change has led to increased selection on timing using a long-term data set from a breeding colony on the island of Vorsø (Denmark). Reproductive success, measured as number of fledglings, correlated with breeding time and arrival time at the colony and declined during the season. This seasonal decline became steeper during the study period for both migration and breeding time and was positively correlated to winter/spring climate, i.e. selection was stronger after warmer winters/springs. However, the increasing selection pressure on timing seems to be unrelated to climate change as the climatic variables that were related to selection strength did not increase during the study period. There is indirect evidence that phenology or abundances of preferred prey species have changed which could have altered selection on timing of migration and breeding.
Effective conservation strategies for highly migratory species must incorporate information about long-distance movements and locations of high-use foraging areas. However, the inherent challenges of directly monitoring these factors call for creative research approaches and innovative application of existing tools. Highly migratory marine species, such as marine turtles, regularly travel hundreds or thousands of kilometers between breeding and feeding areas, but identification of migratory routes and habitat use patterns remains elusive. Here we use satellite telemetry in combination with compound-specific isotope analysis of amino acids to confirm that insights from bulk tissue stable isotope analysis can reveal divergent migratory strategies and within-population segregation of foraging groups of critically endangered leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) across the Pacific Ocean. Among the 78 turtles studied, we found a distinct dichotomy in δ15N values of bulk skin, with distinct “low δ15N” and “high δ15N” groups. δ15N analysis of amino acids confirmed that this disparity resulted from isotopic differences at the base of the food chain and not from differences in trophic position between the two groups. Satellite tracking of 13 individuals indicated that their bulk skin δ15N value was linked to the particular foraging region of each turtle. These findings confirm that prevailing marine isoscapes of foraging areas can be reflected in the isotopic compositions of marine turtle body tissues sampled at nesting beaches. We use a Bayesian mixture model to show that between 82 and 100% of the 78 skin-sampled turtles could be assigned with confidence to either the eastern Pacific or western Pacific, with 33 to 66% of all turtles foraging in the eastern Pacific. Our forensic approach validates the use of stable isotopes to depict leatherback turtle movements over broad spatial ranges and is timely for establishing wise conservation efforts in light of this species’ imminent risk of extinction in the Pacific.
The small size of the billions of migrating songbirds commuting between temperate breeding sites and the tropics has long prevented the study of the largest part of their annual cycle outside the breeding grounds. Using light-level loggers (geolocators), we recorded the entire annual migratory cycle of the red-backed shrike Lanius collurio, a trans-equatorial Eurasian-African passerine migrant. We tested differences between autumn and spring migration for nine individuals. Duration of migration between breeding and winter sites was significantly longer in autumn (average 96 days) when compared with spring (63 days). This difference was explained by much longer staging periods during autumn (71 days) than spring (9 days). Between staging periods, the birds travelled faster during autumn (356 km d–1) than during spring (233 km d–1). All birds made a protracted stop (53 days) in Sahelian sub-Sahara on southbound migration. The birds performed a distinct loop migration (22 000 km) where spring distance, including a detour across the Arabian Peninsula, exceeded the autumn distance by 22 per cent. Geographical scatter between routes was particularly narrow in spring, with navigational convergence towards the crossing point from Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Temporal variation between individuals was relatively constant, while different individuals tended to be consistently early or late at different departure/arrival occasions during the annual cycle. These results demonstrate the existence of fundamentally different spatio-temporal migration strategies used by the birds during autumn and spring migration, and that songbirds may rely on distinct staging areas for completion of their annual cycle, suggesting more sophisticated endogenous control mechanisms than merely clock-and-compass guidance among terrestrial solitary migrants. After a century with metal-ringing, year-round tracking of long-distance migratory songbirds promises further insights into bird migration.
avian migration; geolocator; passerine; migration speed; phenology; migration routes
Studies do not support the claim that migratory birds can spread highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) over long distances.
The claim that migratory birds are responsible for the long-distance spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of subtype H5N1 rests on the assumption that infected wild birds can remain asymptomatic and migrate long distances unhampered. We critically assess this claim from the perspective of ecologic immunology, a research field that analyzes immune function in an ecologic, physiologic, and evolutionary context. Long-distance migration is one of the most demanding activities in the animal world. We show that several studies demonstrate that such prolonged, intense exercise leads to immunosuppression and that migratory performance is negatively affected by infections. These findings make it unlikely that wild birds can spread the virus along established long-distance migration pathways. However, infected, symptomatic wild birds may act as vectors over shorter distances, as appears to have occurred in Europe in early 2006.
Avian influenza; H5N1; avian migration; ecologic immunology; migratory birds; immunocompetence; immunosuppression; exercise; stress; perspective
Variations in the geometry of the external flight apparatus of birds are beneficial for different behaviors. Long-distance flight is less costly with more pointed wings and shorter tails; however these traits decrease maneuverability at low speeds. Selection has led to interspecific differences in these and other flight apparatuses in relation to migration distance. If these principles are general, how are the external flight apparatus within a partially migratory bird species shaped in which individuals either migrate or stay at their breeding grounds? We resolved this question by comparing the wing pointedness and tail length (relative to wing length) of migrant and resident European blackbirds (Turdus merula) breeding in the same population. We predicted that migrant blackbirds would have more pointed wings and shorter tails than residents. Contrary to our predictions, there were no differences between migrants and residents in either measure. Our results indicate that morphological differences between migrants and residents in this partially migratory population may be constrained.
Recent climatic change is causing spring events in northern temperate regions to occur earlier in the year. As a result, migratory birds returning from tropical wintering sites may arrive too late to take full advantage of the food resources on their breeding grounds. Under these conditions, selection will favour earlier spring arrival that could be achieved by overwintering closer to the breeding grounds. However, it is unknown how daylength conditions at higher latitudes will affect the timing of life cycle stages. Here, we show in three species of Palaearctic-African migratory songbirds that a shortening of migration distance induces an advancement of springtime activities. Birds exposed to daylengths simulating migration to and wintering in southern Europe considerably advanced their spring migratory activity and testicular development. This response to the novel photoperiodic environment will enable birds wintering further north to advance spring arrival and to start breeding earlier. Thus, phenotypic flexibility in response to the photoperiod may reinforce selection for shorter migration distance if spring temperatures continue to rise.
For many species, there is broad-scale dispersal of juvenile stages and/or long-distance migration of individuals and hence the processes that drive these various wide-ranging movements have important life-history consequences. Sea turtles are one of these paradigmatic long-distance travellers, with hatchlings thought to be dispersed by ocean currents and adults often shuttling between distant breeding and foraging grounds. Here, we use multi-disciplinary oceanographic, atmospheric and genetic mixed stock analyses to show that juvenile turtles are encountered ‘downstream’ at sites predicted by currents. However, in some cases, unusual occurrences of juveniles are more readily explained by storm events and we show that juvenile turtles may be displaced thousands of kilometres from their expected dispersal based on prevailing ocean currents. As such, storms may be a route by which unexpected areas are encountered by juveniles which may in turn shape adult migrations. Increased stormy weather predicted under climate change scenarios suggests an increasing role of storms in dispersal of sea turtles and other marine groups with life-stages near the ocean surface.
loggerhead sea turtles; mtDNA; Lagrangian buoy trajectories; particle tracking; storm tracks; mixed stock analysis
Twice a year, normally diurnal songbirds engage in long-distance nocturnal migrations between their wintering and breeding grounds. If and how songbirds sleep during these periods of increased activity has remained a mystery. We used a combination of electrophysiological recording and neurobehavioral testing to characterize seasonal changes in sleep and cognition in captive white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) across nonmigratory and migratory seasons. Compared to sparrows in a nonmigratory state, migratory sparrows spent approximately two-thirds less time sleeping. Despite reducing sleep during migration, accuracy and responding on a repeated-acquisition task remained at a high level in sparrows in a migratory state. This resistance to sleep loss during the prolonged migratory season is in direct contrast to the decline in accuracy and responding observed following as little as one night of experimenter-induced sleep restriction in the same birds during the nonmigratory season. Our results suggest that despite being adversely affected by sleep loss during the nonmigratory season, songbirds exhibit an unprecedented capacity to reduce sleep during migration for long periods of time without associated deficits in cognitive function. Understanding the mechanisms that mediate migratory sleeplessness may provide insights into the etiology of changes in sleep and behavior in seasonal mood disorders, as well as into the functions of sleep itself.
Neurophysiological and behavioural studies suggest that sleep- loss during the migratory season does not adversely affect cognitive capacity in captive white-crowned sparrows
There is growing evidence that migratory species are particularly vulnerable to rapid environmental changes arising from human activity. Species are expected to vary in their capacity to respond to these changes: long-distance migrants and those lacking variability in migratory traits are probably at considerable disadvantage. The few studies that have assessed the degree of plasticity in behaviour of marine animals suggest that fidelity to non-breeding destinations is usually high. In the present study, we evaluated individual flexibility in migration strategy of a highly pelagic seabird, the Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea. Geolocation data from 72 different migrations, including 14 birds that were tracked for more than one non-breeding season, showed a remarkable capacity to change winter destinations between years. Although some birds exhibited high site fidelity, others shifted from the South to North Atlantic, from the western to eastern South Atlantic, and from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean. Individuals also showed flexibility in stopover behaviour and migratory schedule. Although their K-selected life-history strategy has the disadvantage that the chances of microevolution are slight if circumstances alter rapidly, these results suggest that Cory's shearwaters may be in a better position than many other long-distance migrants to face the consequences of a changing environment.
behavioural plasticity; climate changes; Cory's shearwater; migration; non-breeding movements
Group-living species have to coordinate collective actions to maintain cohesion. In primates, spatial movements represent a meaningful model to study group coordination processes across different socio-ecological contexts. We studied 4 groups of red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar, between 2008 and 2010 across different ecological and reproductive seasons. We collected data on ranging patterns using GPS collars and observational data on different predefined parameters of group movements, including initiation, leadership, followership, overtaking events, termination, and travel distances. Cohesion of these relatively small, egalitarian lemur groups was high year-round, but daily path length and home range size varied considerably between ecological seasons, presumably due to long-distance migrations of some groups at the beginning of the rainy season. Individuals of different age and sex classes successfully initiated group movements. However, stable female leadership prevailed year-round, irrespective of ecological and reproductive season, which might be due to higher or more specific energetic requirements of reproduction. In contrast to lemur species with a more despotic social structure, female red-fronted lemurs did not recruit more followers than males. Adult leaders recruited more followers than subadult ones. Further, recruitment success was higher during the peak of the dry season, when predation risk appeared to be higher. Distances of single group movements did not depend on the initiator’s sex and age or on ecological seasons. Our results provide new insights into seasonal variability of coordination processes and the role of social dominance in lemur group movements, thereby contributing to a comparative perspective from a primate radiation that evolved group living independently of anthropoids.
Cohesion; Eulemur rufifrons; Followership; Leadership; Overtaking
Fidelity of individual animals to breeding sites is a primary determinant of population structure. The degree and scale of philopatry in a population reflect the fitness effects of social facilitation, ecological adaptation and optimal inbreeding. Patterns of breeding-site movement and fidelity are functions of social structure and are frequently sex biased. We report on a female humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) first identified by natural markings off Brazil that subsequently was photographed off Madagascar. The minimum travel distance between these locations is greater than 9800 km, approximately 4000 km longer than any previously reported movement between breeding grounds, more than twice the species' typical seasonal migratory distance and the longest documented movement by a mammal. It is unexpected to find this exceptional long-distance movement between breeding groups by a female, as models of philopatry suggest that male mammals move more frequently or over longer distances in search of mating opportunities. While such movement may be advantageous, especially in changeable or unpredictable circumstances, it is not possible to unambiguously ascribe causality to this rare observation. This finding illustrates the behavioural flexibility in movement patterns that may be demonstrated within a typically philopatric species.
philopatry; breeding stocks; humpback whale; Megaptera novaeangliae
Migratory animals endure high stress during long-distance travel in order to benefit from spatio-temporally fluctuating resources, including food and shelter or from colonization of unoccupied habitats. Along with some fishes and shrimps, nerite snails in tropical to temperate freshwater systems are examples of amphidromous animals that migrate upstream for growth and reproduction after a marine larval phase. Here I report, to my knowledge, the first example of ‘hitchhiking’ behaviour in the obligatory migration of animals: the nerite snail Neritina asperulata appears to travel several kilometres as minute juveniles by firmly attaching to the shells of congeneric, subadult snails in streams of Melanesian Islands, presumably to increase the success rate of migration.
amphidromy; growth lines; hitchhike; home scar; Neritidae; migration
The highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus still cause devastating effects to humans, agricultural poultry flocks, and wild birds. Wild birds are also detected to carry H5N1 over long distances and are able to introduce it into new areas during migration. In this article, our objective is to provide lists of bird species potentially involved in the introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in Qinghai Lake, which is an important breeding and stopover site for aquatic birds along the Central Asian Flyway. Bird species were classified according to the following behavioral and ecological factors: migratory status, abundance, degree of mixing species and gregariousness, and the prevalence rate of H5N1 virus. Most of the high-risk species were from the family Anatidae, order Anseriformes (9/14 in spring, 11/15 in fall). We also estimated the relative risk of bird species involved by using a semi-quantitative method; species from family Anatidae accounted for over 39% and over 91% of the total risk at spring and fall migration periods, respectively. Results also show the relative risk for each bird aggregating site in helping to identify high-risk areas. This work may also be instructive and meaningful to the avian influenza surveillance in the breeding, stopover, and wintering sites besides Qinghai Lake along the Central Asian Flyway.
Birds; Field studies; Modeling; Surveillance; Transmission
Sea turtles are long-distance migrants with considerable behavioural plasticity in terms of migratory patterns, habitat use and foraging sites within and among populations. However, for the most widely migrating turtle, the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea, studies combining data from individuals of different populations are uncommon. Such studies are however critical to better understand intra- and inter-population variability and take it into account in the implementation of conservation strategies of this critically endangered species. Here, we investigated the movements and diving behaviour of 16 Atlantic leatherback turtles from three different nesting sites and one foraging site during their post-breeding migration to assess the potential determinants of intra- and inter-population variability in migratory patterns.
Using satellite-derived behavioural and oceanographic data, we show that turtles used Temporary Residence Areas (TRAs) distributed all around the Atlantic Ocean: 9 in the neritic domain and 13 in the oceanic domain. These TRAs did not share a common oceanographic determinant but on the contrary were associated with mesoscale surface oceanographic features of different types (i.e., altimetric features and/or surface chlorophyll a concentration). Conversely, turtles exhibited relatively similar horizontal and vertical behaviours when in TRAs (i.e., slow swimming velocity/sinuous path/shallow dives) suggesting foraging activity in these productive regions. Migratory paths and TRAs distribution showed interesting similarities with the trajectories of passive satellite-tracked drifters, suggesting that the general dispersion pattern of adults from the nesting sites may reflect the extent of passive dispersion initially experienced by hatchlings.
Intra- and inter-population behavioural variability may therefore be linked with initial hatchling drift scenarios and be highly influenced by environmental conditions. This high degree of behavioural plasticity in Atlantic leatherback turtles makes species-targeted conservation strategies challenging and stresses the need for a larger dataset (>100 individuals) for providing general recommendations in terms of conservation.