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Flexibility in the Migration Strategies of Animals

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00096

High migratory survival and highly variable migratory behaviour in black-tailed godwits

 Nathan R. Senner1, 2*,  Mo A. Verhoeven2, José M. Abad-Gómez3, José A. Alves4, 5,  Jos C. Hooijmeijer2,  Ruth A. Howison2,  Rosemarie Kentie2, 6, 7,  A.H. J. Loonstra2,  Jose A. Masero3,  Afonso Rocha8, Maria Stager1 and Theunis Piersma2, 7
  • 1University of Montana, United States
  • 2University of Groningen, Netherlands
  • 3University of Extremadura, Spain
  • 4University of Iceland, Iceland
  • 5Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies CESAM, University of Aveiro, Portugal
  • 6University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 7Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Netherlands
  • 8Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences (MARE), Portugal

Few studies have been able to directly measure the seasonal survival rates of migratory species or determine how variable the timing of migration is within individuals and across populations over multiple years. As such, it remains unclear how likely migration is to affect the population dynamics of migratory species and how capable migrants may be of responding to changing environmental conditions within their lifetimes. To address these questions, we used three types of tracking devices to track individual black-tailed godwits from the nominate subspecies (Limosa limosa limosa) throughout their annual cycles for up to five consecutive years. We found that godwits exhibit considerable inter- and intra-individual variation in their migratory behaviour across years. We also found that godwits had generally high survival rates during migration, although survival was reduced during northward flights across the Sahara Desert. These patterns differ from those observed in most other migratory species, suggesting that migration may only be truly dangerous when crossing geographic barriers that lack emergency stopover sites and that the levels of phenotypic flexibility exhibited by some populations may enable them to rapidly respond to changing environmental conditions.

Keywords: Repeatability (r), Phenotypic flexibility, seasonal survival, Long-distance migratory birds, Limosa limosa limosa

Received: 23 Sep 2018; Accepted: 11 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

David Costantini, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (France), France

Reviewed by:

Michael P. Ward, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States
Cas Eikenaar, Institute of Avian Research, Germany
Diego Rubolini, University of Milan, Italy  

Copyright: © 2019 Senner, Verhoeven, Abad-Gómez, Alves, Hooijmeijer, Howison, Kentie, Loonstra, Masero, Rocha, Stager and Piersma. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Nathan R. Senner, University of Montana, Missoula, United States,