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Personality predicts foraging site fidelity and trip repeatability in a marine predator


Harris, Stephanie M. et al. (2019), Personality predicts foraging site fidelity and trip repeatability in a marine predator, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Animal populations are often comprised of both foraging specialists and generalists. For instance, some individuals show higher foraging site fidelity (spatial specialisation) than others. Such individual differences in degree of specialisation can persist over timescales of months or even years in long-lived animals, but the mechanisms leading to these different individual strategies are not fully understood. 2. There is accumulating evidence that individual variation in foraging behaviour is shaped by animal personality traits, such as boldness. Despite this, the potential for boldness to drive differences in the degree of specialisation is unknown. 3. In this study, we used novel object tests to measure boldness in black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) breeding at four colonies in Svalbard, and deployed GPS loggers to examine their at-sea foraging behaviour. We estimated the repeatability of foraging trips, and used a hidden Markov model to identify locations of foraging sites in order to quantify individual foraging site fidelity. 4. Across the breeding season, bolder birds were more repeatable than shy individuals in the distance and range of their foraging trips, and during the incubation period (but not chick rearing), bolder individuals were more site faithful. Birds exhibited these differences while showing high spatial similarity in foraging areas, indicating that site selection was not driven by personality-dependent spatial partitioning. 5. We instead suggest that a relationship between boldness and site fidelity may be driven by differences in behavioural flexibility between bold and shy individuals. Together, these results provide a potential mechanism by which widely reported individual differences in foraging specialisation may emerge.

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Greenland Sea
Barents Sea