Environmental heterogeneity promotes individual specialisation in habitat selection in a widely distributed seabird

Trevail, Alice M.; Green, Jonathan A.; Bolton, Mark; Daunt, Francis; Harris, Stephanie M.; Miller, Peter I.; Newton, Stephen; Owen, Ellie; Polton, Jeff A. ORCID:; Robertson, Gail; Sharples, Jonathan; Patrick, Samantha C.. 2021 Environmental heterogeneity promotes individual specialisation in habitat selection in a widely distributed seabird. Journal of Animal Ecology, 90 (12). 2875-2887.

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1. Individual specialisations in behaviour are predicted to arise where divergence benefits fitness. Such specialisations are more likely in heterogeneous environments where there is both greater ecological opportunity and competition-driven frequency dependent selection. 2. Such an effect could explain observed differences in rates of individual specialisation in habitat selection, as it offers individuals an opportunity to select for habitat types that maximise resource gain while minimising competition; however, this mechanism has not been tested before. 3. Here, we use habitat selection functions to quantify individual specialisations while foraging by black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla, a marine top predator, at 15 colonies around the United Kingdom and Ireland, along a gradient of environmental heterogeneity. 4. We find support for the hypothesis that individual specialisations in habitat selection while foraging are more prevalent in heterogeneous environments. This trend was significant across multiple dynamic habitat variables that change over short time-scales and did not arise through site fidelity, which highlights the importance of environmental processes in facilitating behavioural adaptation by predators. 5. Individual differences may drive evolutionary processes, and therefore these results suggest that there is broad scope for the degree of environmental heterogeneity to determine current and future population, species and community dynamics.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0021-8790
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: behavioural consistency, foraging behaviour, habitat selection, kittiwake, movement ecology, seabird
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 15 Dec 2021 17:15 +0 (UTC)

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