CIE Spotlight: Mate similarity in foraging Kerguelen shags: a combined bio-logging and stable isotope investigation

AuthorsElodie C. M. Camprasse, Yves Chere, John P. Y. Arnould, Andrew J. Hoskins, Paco Bustamante, Charles-André Bost

Source: Marine Ecology Progress Series

Brief summary of the paper: Similarity or dissimilarity between 2 individuals that have formed a pair to breed can occur in morphology, behaviour and diet. Such patterns influence partners’ cooperation when rearing their offspring, consequently influencing reproductive success. They may confer different benefits, depending on species and contexts. However, the extent to which breeding partners are more similar in morphology, behaviour, and diet is poorly documented. Furthermore, the relationship between behavioural consistency and mate choice is particularly poorly understood.

To investigate these issues, Kerguelen shags Phalacrocorax verrucosus, which are monogamous with high mate fidelity across years, were studied. Partners were equipped with GPS and diving behaviour loggers. Feather and blood samples were analysed for stable isotopes (δ13C, a proxy of foraging habitat, and δ15N, a proxy of diet/trophic position). Generalized linear mixed effects models and permutation tests were used to investigate pair similarity in morphology, foraging behaviour, behavioural consistency, overlap in foraging areas, and diets/foraging habitats. Mates were found not to exhibit size-assortative mating, but were more similar in foraging behaviour. They did not show assortative or disassortative mating based on foraging behavioural consistency.

Furthermore, they followed more similar bearings and overlapped more in foraging areas. In accordance with this, partners were more similar in δ15N. Given the lack of assortative mating by morphology, the similarity in behaviour could be due to individuals selecting mates with similar foraging abilities, linked with individual quality, and/or subsequently using information gained from their partners’ foraging strategies (e.g. local enhancement). This could help breeding pairs increase their foraging efficiency and reproductive success.