An exception to the rule: Carry-over effects do not accumulate in a long-distance migratory bird
Recent years have seen a growing consensus that events during one part of an animal's annual cycle can detrimentally affect its future fitness. Notably, migratory species have been shown to commonly display such carry-over effects, facing severe time constraints and physiological stresses that can influence events across seasons. However, to date, no study has examined a full annual cycle to determine when these carry-over effects arise and how long they persist within and across years. Understanding when carry-over effects are created and how they persist is critical to identifying those periods and geographic locations that constrain the annual cycle of a population and determining how selection is acting upon individuals throughout the entire year. Using three consecutive years of migration tracks and four consecutive years of breeding success data, we tested whether carry-over effects in the form of timing deviations during one migratory segment of the annual cycle represent fitness costs that persist or accumulate across the annual cycle for a long-distance migratory bird, the Hudsonian godwit, Limosa haemastica. We found that individual godwits could migrate progressively later than population mean over the course of an entire migration period, especially southbound migration, but that these deviations did not accumulate across the entire year and were not consistently detected among individuals across years. Furthermore, neither the accumulation of lateness during previous portions of the annual cycle nor arrival date at the breeding grounds resulted in individuals suffering reductions in their breeding success or survival. Given their extreme life history, such a lack of carry-over effects suggests that strong selection exists on godwits at each stage of the annual cycle and that carry-over effects may not be able to persist in such a system, but also emphasizes that high-quality stopover and wintering sites are critical to the maintenance of long-distance migratory populations.
Authors: Senner, Nathan R., Hochachka, Wesley M., Fox, James W., Afanasyev, Vsevolod