Distributional patterns of a marine bird and its prey: habitat selection based on prey and conspecific behaviour

Davoren, Gail K. and Montevecchi, William A. and Anderson, John T. (2003) Distributional patterns of a marine bird and its prey: habitat selection based on prey and conspecific behaviour. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 256. pp. 229-242. ISSN 1616-1599

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Abstract

We examined distributional patterns of a pursuit-diving seabird, the common murre Uria aalge, and its fish prey, capelin Mallotus villosus, within the avian foraging range of the largest murre colony in eastern North America: Funk Island, Newfoundland. During chick-rearing, the foraging habitat was previously partitioned into: (1) a high-quality area, 45 km from the colony where energy rich capelin schools were found, which were spatially and temporally persistent and (2) a low-quality area, 60 km from the colony where schools were composed of lower-energy capelin that were ephemeral. At the scale of the foraging range (meso-scale: 1 to 100 km), murres were highly clustered into 25% of the surveyed area, with fewer murres in the low-quality relative to the high-quality area. There were tighter associations among murre and capelin aggregations in the low-quality (1.2 ± 0.2 km) relative to the high-quality area (2.6 ± 0.4 km). This likely resulted from the divergent capelin behaviour and, thus, different foraging strategies used by murres to search for (e.g. memory vs local enhancement) and capture prey. At fine spatial scales (250 m2) within foraging areas, murres were found at lower densities (mode: 2 murres), revealing that interference competition among individuals may be important during prey capture. Modeling revealed that at >50 murres per 250 m2 in the high quality area, a murre would have a >90% chance of increasing its foraging efficiency by switching to forage in the low-quality area. Overall, this scale-dependent aggregative behaviour of murres suggests that cooperative foraging among conspecifics may be important in locating prey at the scale of a foraging range, or murres may simply aggregate in areas of high prey abundance, but competitive interactions among conspecifics become important at the scale of prey capture.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1749
Item ID: 1749
Keywords: Habitat selection · Scale · Predator-prey theory · Competition, Model, Ideal free distribution, Common murre, Capelin
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: 17 July 2003
Date Type: Publication
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