Influence of wing loading on the trade-off between pursuit-diving and flight in common guillemots and razorbills

Thaxter, C.B.; Wanless, S.; Daunt, F.; Harris, M.P.; Benvenuti, S.; Watanuki, Y.; Gremillet, D.; Hamer, K.C.. 2010 Influence of wing loading on the trade-off between pursuit-diving and flight in common guillemots and razorbills. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213. 1018-1025.

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Species of bird that use their wings for underwater propulsion are thought to face evolutionary trade-offs between flight and diving, leading to the prediction that species with different wing areas relative to body mass (i.e. different wing loadings) also differ in the relative importance of flight and diving activity during foraging trips. We tested this hypothesis for two similarly sized species of Alcidae (common guillemots and razorbills) by using bird-borne devices to examine three-dimensional foraging behaviour at a single colony. Guillemots have 30% higher wing loading than razorbills and, in keeping with this difference, razorbills spent twice as long in flight as a proportion of trip duration whereas guillemots spent twice as long in diving activity. Razorbills made a large number of short, relatively shallow dives and spent little time in the bottom phase of the dive whereas guillemots made fewer dives but frequently attained depths suggesting that they were near the seabed (ca. 35–70 m). The bottom phase of dives by guillemots was relatively long, indicating that they spent considerable time searching for and pursuing prey. Guillemots also spent a greater proportion of each dive bout underwater and had faster rates of descent, indicating that they were more adept at maximising time for pursuit and capture of prey. These differences in foraging behaviour may partly reflect guillemots feeding their chicks single large prey obtained near the bottom and razorbills feeding their chicks multiple prey from the water column. Nonetheless, our data support the notion that interspecific differences in wing loadings of auks reflect an evolutionary trade-off between aerial and underwater locomotion.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 1 - Observations, Patterns, and Predictions for Biodiversity > BD - 1.4 - Quantify and model interactions to determine impacts ...
CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > CC01A Detection and Attribution of Change in UK and European Ecosystems > CC01.4 Isle of May Long-Term Study
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0022-0949
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 29 Mar 2010 13:31 +0 (UTC)

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