So far, so good… Similar fitness consequences and overall energetic costs for short and long-distance migrants in a seabird
Although there is a consensus about the evolutionary drivers of animal migration, considerable work is necessary to identify the mechanisms that underlie the great variety of strategies observed in nature. The study of differential migration offers unique opportunities to identify such mechanisms and allows comparisons of the costs and benefits of migration. The purpose of this study was to compare the characteristics of short and long-distance migrations, and fitness consequences, in a long-lived seabird species. We combined demographic monitoring (survival, phenology, hatching success) of 58 Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) breeding on Bonaventure Island (Canada) and biologging technology (Global Location Sensor or GLS loggers) to estimate activity and energy budgets during the non-breeding period for three different migration strategies: to the Gulf of Mexico (GM), southeast (SE) or northeast (NE) Atlantic coast of the U.S. Survival, timing of arrival at the colony and hatching success are similar for short (NE, SE) and long-distance (GM) migrants. Despite similar fitness consequences, we found, as expected, that the overall energetic cost of migration is higher for long-distance migrants, although the daily cost during migration was similar between strategies. In contrast, daily maintenance and thermoregulation costs were lower for GM migrants in winter, where sea-surface temperature of the GM is 4-7o C warmer than SE and NE. In addition, GM migrants tend to fly 30 min less per day in their wintering area than other migrants. Considering lower foraging effort and lower thermoregulation costs during winter for long-distance migrants, this suggests that the energetic benefits during the winter of foraging in the GM outweigh any negative consequences of the longer-distance migration. These results support the notion that the costs and benefits of short and long-distance migration is broadly equal on an annual basis, i.e. there are no apparent carry-over effects in this long-lived bird species, probably because of the favourable conditions in the furthest wintering area.
Authors: Pelletier, David, Seyer, Yannick, Garthe, Stefan, Bonnefoi, Salome, Phillips, Richard A., Guillemette, Magella