MEPS 398:259-274 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08319

Foraging plasticity in a pelagic seabird species along a marine productivity gradient

Vitor H. Paiva1,3,*, Pedro Geraldes2, Iván Ramírez2, Ana Meirinho2, Stefan Garthe3, Jaime A. Ramos1

1IMAR/CMA-Institute of Marine Research, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra 3004-517, Portugal
2SPEA- Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, BirdLife International partner, Avenida da Liberdade No. 105-2° Esq., 1250-140 Lisboa, Portugal
3Research and Technology Centre (FTZ), University of Kiel, Hafentörn 1, 25761 Büsum, Germany

ABSTRACT: The foraging plasticity in a pelagic seabird species, Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea, was compared during incubation and chick-rearing among 7 different breeding sites in the North Atlantic. These sites, with contrasting ecological conditions, were situated in the Azores (Corvo, Faial, Graciosa and Sta. Maria), Berlengas (Berlenga), Madeira (Desertas) and Selvagens (Selvagem Grande) archipelagos. Behavioural data were obtained by intensively deploying compass-temperature and temperature-depth data loggers, monitoring 302 and 22 foraging excursions, respectively. A principal component analysis revealed 2 main groups, one foraging along a neritic shelf (Berlengas population) and the other foraging in pelagic oceanic areas (populations from Azores, Madeira and Selvagens). There was a significant positive correlation (rS = 0.55) between the percentage of short foraging trips in the different breeding sites and the concentration of chlorophyll-a in the waters surrounding those sites. Birds exploiting neritic areas used shallower depths (4.9 ± 2.3 m) and shorter dives (17.0 ± 2.2 s) than birds feeding in oceanic waters (9.8 ± 2.4 m and 32.0 ± 5.8 s respectively). This indicates that birds adapted their modes of predation to cope with the diverse distribution of their prey items. Overall, the behavioural response of the different populations was mainly dictated by the heterogeneity of their habitat, which was driven by 2 productivity gradients present in the north Atlantic. (1) Productivity is expected to increase from the subtropical warmer waters close to Selvagens to northern colder waters north of the Azores archipelago. (2) Oceanic environments are expected to be less profitable than coastal areas (upwelling areas), such as the Portuguese and African coasts.


KEY WORDS: Data loggers · Ecological plasticity · Environmental heterogeneity · Foraging behaviour · Seabird


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Cite this article as: Paiva VH, Geraldes P, Ramírez I, Meirinho A, Garthe S, Ramos JA (2010) Foraging plasticity in a pelagic seabird species along a marine productivity gradient. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 398:259-274. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08319

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