Consistency pays in a long-lived albatross

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Biosciences research fellow Samantha Patrick writes about a her new paper, out today in Biology Letters,

Our new study demonstrates that consistency pays in a long lived albatross. We used high resolution GPS tracking devices to monitor the foraging behaviour of individual birds over repeated foraging trips, and then estimated how consistent they were in aspects of spatial and temporal behaviour.

The results showed clear differences between males and females, with males being much more specialised. In a previous paper we showed that males should always forage near the colony, whereas females should adjust their behaviour in response to the environment. This may allow males to be come true specialists, whereas females may need to maintain the ability to change behaviour, making them more generalist.

In this study, we predicted that females who were generalists would be more successful at rearing a chick, but found that both specialist male and females were more successful. This suggests that a degree of specialisation is always adaptive, and raises interesting questions surround the ability of birds to change behaviour.

Dr. Samantha Patrick, Research Fellow in Environmental Dynamics & Governance

Full Citation: Patrick, S.C. and Weimerskirch, H. Consistency pays: sex differences and fitness consequences of behavioural specialization in a wide ranging seabird. Biology Letters, In Press.

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