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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 518:1-12 (2015)  -  DOI:

Sexual segregation in a wide-ranging marine predator is a consequence of habitat selection

Ian R. Cleasby1,2,*, Ewan D. Wakefield1,7, Tom W. Bodey2, Rachel D. Davies1, Samantha C. Patrick3,4, Jason Newton5, Stephen C. Votier6, Stuart Bearhop2, Keith C. Hamer

1School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
2Centre of Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK
3School of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham GL50 4HZ, UK
4Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
5NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility, SUERC, East Kilbride G75 0QF, UK
6Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK
7Present address: Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sexual segregation, common in many species, is usually attributed to intra-specific competition or habitat choice. However, few studies have simultaneously quantified sex-specific foraging behaviour and habitat use. We combined movement, diving, stable isotope and oceanographic data to test whether sexual segregation in northern gannets Morus bassanus results from sex-specific habitat use. Breeding birds foraging in a seasonally stratified shelf sea were tracked over 3 consecutive breeding seasons (2010-2012). Females made longer trips, foraged farther offshore and had lower d13C values than males. Male and female foraging areas overlapped only slightly. Males foraged more in mixed coastal waters, where net primary production (NPP) was relatively high (>3 mg C m-2 d-1) and sea-surface temperature (SST) was relatively low (<10°C). Males also tended to use areas with higher SSTs (>15°C) more than females, possibly as a consequence of foraging in productive mixed waters over offshore banks. Females foraged most frequently in stratified offshore waters, of intermediate SST (12-15°C), but exhibited no consistent response to NPP. Sex-specific differences in diving behaviour corresponded with differences in habitat use: males made more long and deep U-shaped dives. Such dives were characteristic of inshore foraging, whereas shorter and shallower V-shaped dives occurred more often in offshore waters. Heavier birds attained greater depths during V-shaped dives, but even when controlling for body mass, females made deeper V-shaped dives than males. Together, these results indicate that sexual segregation in gannets is driven largely by habitat segregation between mixed and stratified waters, which in turn results in sex-specific foraging behaviour and dive depths.

KEY WORDS: Competition · Foraging behaviour · Oceanography · Wildlife telemetry · Northern gannet · Morus bassanus

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Cite this article as: Cleasby IR, Wakefield ED, Bodey TW, Davies RD and others (2015) Sexual segregation in a wide-ranging marine predator is a consequence of habitat selection. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 518:1-12.

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