Facultative, partially migratory animals provide a contemporary window into the evolution of migration, offering rare opportunities to examine the life-history trade-offs associated with migration. For the first time, to our knowledge, we describe the nature of these trade-offs, using a lek-breeding tropical bird, the white-ruffed manakin (Corapipo altera). Previous evidence indicated that weather drives post-breeding migration to lower elevations bringing condition-related benefits. Using elevation-sensitive stable isotope measurements and more than 1200 h of behavioural observations, we show that male manakins which migrate incur costs of diminished social status and matings with females the following breeding season. Because migratory tendency depends on inter-annual variation in weather, physical costs of displays and breeding prospects the following year, migratory decisions are subject to both natural and sexual selection, with the outcome of such decisions linked to changing climatic regimes.
carry-over effects; evolution of migration; life-history trade-offs
A central goal of population ecology is to identify the factors that regulate population growth. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in eastern North America re-colonize the breeding range over several generations that result in population densities that vary across space and time during the breeding season. We used laboratory experiments to measure the strength of density-dependent intraspecific competition on egg laying rate and larval survival and then applied our results to density estimates of wild monarch populations to model the strength of density dependence during the breeding season. Egg laying rates did not change with density but larvae at high densities were smaller, had lower survival, and weighed less as adults compared to lower densities. Using mean larval densities from field surveys resulted in conservative estimates of density-dependent population reduction that varied between breeding regions and different phases of the breeding season. Our results suggest the highest levels of population reduction due to density-dependent intraspecific competition occur early in the breeding season in the southern portion of the breeding range. However, we also found that the strength of density dependence could be almost five times higher depending on how many life-stages were used as part of field estimates. Our study is the first to link experimental results of a density-dependent reduction in vital rates to observed monarch densities in the wild and show that the effects of density dependent competition in monarchs varies across space and time, providing valuable information for developing robust, year-round population models in this migratory organism.
Each year, millions of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate up to 3000 km from their overwintering grounds in central Mexico to breed in eastern North America. Malcolm et al. (1993) articulated two non-mutually exclusive hypotheses to explain how Monarchs re-colonize North America each spring. The ‘successive brood’ hypothesis proposes that monarchs migrate from Mexico to the Gulf Coast, lay eggs and die, leaving northern re-colonization of the breeding range to subsequent generations. The ‘single sweep’ hypothesis proposes that overwintering monarchs continue to migrate northward after arriving on the Gulf coast and may reach the northern portion of the breeding range, laying eggs along the way. To examine these hypotheses, we sampled monarchs throughout the northern breeding range and combined stable-hydrogen isotopes (δD) to estimate natal origin with wing wear scores to differentiate between individuals born in the current vs. previous year. Similar to Malcolm et al. (1993), we found that the majority of the northern breeding range was re-colonized by the first generation of monarchs (90%). We also estimated that a small number of individuals (10%) originated directly from Mexico and, therefore adopted a sweep strategy. Contrary to Malcolm et al. (1993), we found that 62% of monarchs sampled in the Great Lakes originated from the Central U.S., suggesting that this region is important for sustaining production in the northern breeding areas. Our results provide new evidence of re-colonization patterns in monarchs and contribute important information towards identifying productive breeding regions of this unique migratory insect.
Each spring, millions of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate from overwintering sites in Mexico to recolonize eastern North America. However, few monarchs are found along the east coast of the USA until mid-summer. Brower (Brower, L. P. 1996 J. Exp. Biol. 199, 93–103.) proposed that east coast recolonization is accomplished by individuals migrating from the west over the Appalachians, but to date no evidence exists to support this hypothesis. We used hydrogen (δD) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotope measurements to estimate natal origins of 90 monarchs sampled from 17 sites along the eastern United States coast. We found the majority of monarchs (88%) originated in the mid-west and Great Lakes regions, providing, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence that second generation monarchs born in June complete a (trans-) longitudinal migration across the Appalachian mountains. The remaining individuals (12%) originated from parents that migrated directly from the Gulf coast during early spring. Our results provide evidence of a west to east longitudinal migration and provide additional rationale for conserving east coast populations by identifying breeding sources.
Danaus plexippus; insect migration; migratory connectivity; stable isotopes
Conditions experienced during development can have long-term consequences for individual success. In migratory songbirds, the proximate mechanisms linking early life events and survival are not well understood because tracking individuals across stages of the annual cycle can be extremely challenging. In this paper, we first use a 13 year dataset to demonstrate a positive relationship between 1st year survival and nestling mass in migratory Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis). We also use a brood manipulation experiment to show that nestlings from smaller broods have higher mass in the nest relative to individuals from larger broods. Having established these relationships, we then use three years of field data involving multiple captures of individuals throughout the pre-migratory period and a multi-level path model to examine the hypothesis that conditions during development limit survival during migration by affecting an individual's ability to accumulate sufficient lean tissue and fat mass prior to migration. We found a positive relationship between fat mass during the pre-migratory period (Sept–Oct) and nestling mass and a negative indirect relationship between pre-migratory fat mass and fledging date. Our results provide the first evidence that conditions during development limit survival during migration through their effect on fat stores. These results are particularly important given recent evidence showing that body condition of songbirds at fledging is affected by climate change and anthropogenic changes to landscape structure.
Despite the fact that migration occurs in a wide variety of taxa worldwide, little is known about the conditions under which migration is expected to evolve from an ancestral resident population. We develop a model that focuses on ecological factors affecting the evolution of migration in a seasonal environment within a genetically explicit framework. We model the evolution of migration for two common types of migration: ‘shared breeding’ where migrants share a breeding ground with residents and migrate to a separate non-breeding area, versus ‘shared non-breeding’, where migrants share a non-breeding ground with residents and migrate to a separate breeding area. Ecologically, migration is more easily established in the shared-breeding case versus the shared-non-breeding case. Genetically, the additive effect of a migratory allele affects its establishment more in the shared-non-breeding case versus the shared-breeding case, whereas the dominance effect of the allele affects its establishment more in the shared-breeding case versus the shared-non-breeding case. Generally, migratory alleles can invade even when residents are competitively superior to migrants during the shared season. Partial migration occurs when the population is polymorphic for migratory and non-migratory alleles, and is dependent upon which season is shared and the additive and dominance behaviour of the migratory allele.
migratory animals; genetics of migration; invasion analysis; density dependence; habitat quality
Although migration is a widespread and taxonomically diverse behaviour, the ecological factors shaping migratory behaviour are poorly understood. Like other montane taxa, many birds migrate along elevational gradients in the tropics. Forty years ago, Alexander Skutch postulated that severe storms could drive birds to migrate downhill. Here, we articulate a novel mechanism that could link storms to mortality risks via reductions in foraging time and provide, to our knowledge, the first tests of this hypothesis in the White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera), a small partially migratory frugivore breeding on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica. As predicted, variation in rainfall was associated with plasma corticosterone levels, fat stores, plasma metabolites and haematocrit. By collecting data at high and low elevation sites simultaneously, we also found that high-elevation residents were more adversely affected by storms than low elevation migrants. These results, together with striking temporal capture patterns of altitudinal migrants relative to storms, provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence that weather-related risks incurred by species requiring high food intake rates can explain altitudinal migrations of tropical animals. These findings resolve conflicting evidence for and against food limitation being important in the evolution of this behaviour, and highlight how endogenous and exogenous processes influence life-history trade-offs made by individuals in the wild. Because seasonal storms are a defining characteristic of most tropical ecosystems and rainfall patterns will probably change in ensuing decades, these results have important implications for understanding the ecology, evolution and conservation of tropical animals.
allostasis; climate change; foraging; metabolism; partial migration; tropical forest
Isotopes can provide unique solutions to fundamental problems related to the ecology and evolution of migration and dispersal because prior movements of individuals can theoretically be tracked from tissues collected from a single capture. However, there is still remarkably little information available about how and why isotopes vary in wild animal tissues, especially over large spatial scales.
Here, we describe variation in both stable-hydrogen (δDF) and strontium (87Sr/86SrF) isotopic compositions in the feathers of a migratory songbird, the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), across 18 sampling sites in North America and then examine potential mechanisms driving this variation. We found that δDF was correlated with latitude of the sampling site, whereas 87Sr/86SrF was correlated with longitude. δDF was related to δD of meteoric waters where molting occurred and 87Sr/86SrF was influenced primarily by the geology in the area where feathers were grown. Using simulation models, we then assessed the utility of combining both markers to estimate the origin of individuals. Using 13 geographic regions, we found that the number of individuals correctly assigned to their site of origin increased from less than 40% using either δD or 87Sr/86Sr alone to 74% using both isotopes.
Our results suggest that these isotopes have the potential to provide predictable and complementary markers for estimating long-distance animal movements. Combining isotopes influenced by different global-scale processes may allow researchers to link the population dynamics of animals across large geographic ranges.
Predicting how populations respond to climate change requires an understanding of whether individuals or cohorts within populations vary in their response to climate variation. We used mixed-effects models on a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) population in British Columbia, Canada, to examine differences among females and cohorts in their average breeding date and breeding date plasticity in response to the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Climatic variables, age and population density were strong predictors of timing of breeding, but we also found considerable variation among individual females and cohorts. Within cohorts, females differed markedly in their breeding date and cohorts also differed in their average breeding date and breeding date plasticity. The plasticity of a cohort appeared to be due primarily to an interaction between the environmental conditions (climate and density) experienced at different ages rather than innate inter-cohort differences. Cohorts that expressed higher plasticity in breeding date experienced warmer El Niño springs in their second or third breeding season, suggesting that prior experience affects how well individuals responded to abnormal climatic conditions. Cohorts born into lower density populations also expressed higher plasticity in breeding date. Interactions between age, experience and environmental conditions have been reported previously for long-lived taxa. Our current results indicate that similar effects operate in a short-lived, temperate songbird.
breeding date; climate change; cohort variation; El Niño Southern Oscillation; mixed models; song sparrow
Migration is widespread among animals, but the factors that influence the decision to migrate are poorly understood. Within a single species, populations may be completely migratory, completely sedentary or partially migratory. We use a population model to derive conditions for migration and demonstrate how migratory survival, habitat quality and density dependence on both the breeding and non-breeding grounds influence conditions for migration and the proportion of migrants within a population. Density dependence during the season in which migratory and sedentary individuals use separate sites is necessary for partial migration. High levels of density dependence at the non-shared sites widen the range of survival values within which we predict partial migration, whereas increasing the strength of density dependence at the shared sites narrows the range of survival values within which we predict partial migration. Our results have important implications for predicting how contemporary populations with variable migration strategies may respond to changes in the quality or quantity of habitat.
partial migration; habitat loss; population dynamics
Migratory animals comprise a significant portion of biodiversity worldwide with annual investment for their conservation exceeding several billion dollars. Designing effective conservation plans presents enormous challenges. Migratory species are influenced by multiple events across land and sea–regions that are often separated by thousands of kilometres and span international borders. To date, conservation strategies for migratory species fail to take into account how migratory animals are spatially connected between different periods of the annual cycle (i.e. migratory connectivity) bringing into question the utility and efficiency of current conservation efforts.
Here, we report the first framework for determining an optimal conservation strategy for a migratory species. Employing a decision theoretic approach using dynamic optimization, we address the problem of how to allocate resources for habitat conservation for a Neotropical-Nearctic migratory bird, the American redstart Setophaga ruticilla, whose winter habitat is under threat. Our first conservation strategy used the acquisition of winter habitat based on land cost, relative bird density, and the rate of habitat loss to maximize the abundance of birds on the wintering grounds. Our second strategy maximized bird abundance across the entire range of the species by adding the constraint of maintaining a minimum percentage of birds within each breeding region in North America using information on migratory connectivity as estimated from stable-hydrogen isotopes in feathers. We show that failure to take into account migratory connectivity may doom some regional populations to extinction, whereas including information on migratory connectivity results in the protection of the species across its entire range.
We demonstrate that conservation strategies for migratory animals depend critically upon two factors: knowledge of migratory connectivity and the correct statement of the conservation problem. Our framework can be used to identify efficient conservation strategies for migratory taxa worldwide, including insects, birds, mammals, and marine organisms.
Migratory animals present a unique challenge for predicting population size because they are influenced by events in multiple stages of the annual cycle that are separated by large geographic distances. Here, we develop a model that incorporates non-fatal carry-over effects to predict changes in population size and show how this can be integrated with predictive models of habitat loss and deterioration. Examples from Barn swallows, Greater snow geese and American redstarts show how carry-over effects can be estimated and integrated into the model. Incorporation of carry-over effects should increase the predictive power of models. However, the challenge for developing accurate predictions rests both on the ability to estimate parameters from multiple stages of the annual cycle and to understand how events between these periods interact to influence individual success.
migratory animals; habitat loss; habitat quality; seasonal interactions; regulatory mechanisms
Identifying the factors that control population dynamics in migratory animals has been constrained by our inability to track individuals throughout the annual cycle. Using stable carbon isotopes, we show that the reproductive success of a long-distance migratory bird is influenced by the quality of habitat located thousands of kilometres away on tropical wintering grounds. For male American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla), winter habitat quality influenced arrival date on the breeding grounds, which in turn affected key variables associated with reproduction, including the number of young fledged. Based on a winter-habitat model, females occupying high-quality winter habitat were predicted to produce more than two additional young and to fledge offspring up to a month earlier compared with females wintering in poor-quality habitat. Differences of this magnitude are highly important considering redstarts are single brooded, lay clutches of only three to five eggs and spend only two-and-a-half months on the breeding grounds. Results from this study indicate the importance of understanding how periods of the annual cycle interact for migratory animals. Continued loss of tropical wintering habitat could have negative effects on migratory populations in the following breeding season, minimizing density-dependent effects on the breeding grounds and leading to further population declines. If conservation efforts are to be successful, strategies must incorporate measures to protect all the habitats used during the entire annual cycle of migratory animals.