Search strategies of a pursuit-diving seabird and the persistence of prey patches

Montevecchi, William A. and Davoren, Gail K. and Anderson, John T. (2003) Search strategies of a pursuit-diving seabird and the persistence of prey patches. Ecological Monographs, 73 (3). pp. 463-481. ISSN 0012-9615

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We explored foraging strategies used by marine animals to search for prey by examining the relative importance of information exchange and memory in a cold ocean environment from 1998 to 2000. Recent technological advances have increased our knowledge of the foraging patterns of marine predators, but few of these studies have concurrently measured prey distribution and behavior. We quantified the arrival and departure behavior of a pursuit-diving, colonial seabird, the Common Murre, Uria aalge, at two colonies on the eastern Newfoundland Shelf through observational techniques. We also measured the distribution, abundance, and behavior of the capelin, Mallotus villosus, the main prey species of murres, within foraging ranges of each colony, using hydroacoustic, vessel-based techniques. Return and departure flight directions of murres did not match at either colony during the same period. This indicated that murres departing colonies did not use information on prey distributions outside of visual range of the colony provided by the flight paths of returning flocks of birds to the colony carrying fish. High-abundance aggregations of capelin were reliably found within specific 2.25-km areas (‘‘hot spots’’) for up to two weeks within the foraging ranges of murres from both colonies (;100 km). This circumstance suggests that murres could use memory to locate hot spots on the coarse scale (1– 100 km) of foraging ranges from both colonies. Specific commuting routes (regular flight paths) of murres toward and away from hot spots were obvious at sea, and feeding murres consistently marked the location of capelin schools within hot spots. These distributions provided excellent conditions for murres to locate capelin schools on both coarse and fine (1–1000 m) scales by cueing to the activities of conspecifics, known as local enhancement. While central-place foraging from breeding colonies, murres likely use a mixture of memory and local enhancement to locate prey, depending on the spatial and temporal resolution of search and current prey conditions. Uncovering such behavioral mechanisms responsible for predator–prey interactions increases our understanding of linkages among trophic levels and, ultimately, ecosystem dynamics.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 1943
Keywords: capelin, central place foraging, Common Murre, hot spot, information center hypothesis, information exchange, local enhancement, Mallotus villosus, memory, scale, search, Uria aalge
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: August 2003
Date Type: Publication
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