Handedness and individual roll-angle specialism when plunge diving in the northern gannet

Many vertebrates show lateralized behaviour, or handedness, where an individual preferentially uses one side of the body more than the other. This is generally thought to be caused by brain lateralization and allows functional specializations such as sight, locomotion, and decision-making among other things. We deployed accelerometers on 51 northern gannets, Morus bassanus, to test for behavioural lateralization during plunge dives. When plunge diving, gannets ‘roll’ to one side, and standard indices indicated that 51% of individuals were left-sided, 43% right-sided, and 6% ‘non-lateralized’. Lateralization indices provide no measure of error and do not account for environmental covariance, so we conducted two repeatability analyses on individuals' dive roll direction and angle. Dive side lateralization was highly repeatable among individuals over time at the population level (R = 0.878, p < 0.001). Furthermore, roll angle was also highly repeatable in individuals (R = 0.751, p < 0.001) even after controlling for lateralized state. Gannets show individual specializations in two different parts of the plunge diving process when attempting to catch prey. This is the first demonstration of lateralization during prey capture in a foraging seabird. It is also one of the few demonstrations of behavioural lateralization in a mixed model approach, providing a structure for further exploring behavioural lateralization.


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Authors: Bennison, Ashley ORCIDORCID record for Ashley Bennison, Clark, Bethany L., Votier, Stephen C., Quinn, John L., Darby, Jamie, Jessopp, Mark

On this site: Ashley Bennison
6 September, 2023
Biology Letters / 19
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