3 years ago

Climate mediates the success of migration strategies in a marine predator

Steven J. Bograd, Elliott L. Hazen, Briana Abrahms, Daniel E. Crocker, Justin S. Brashares, Patrick W. Robinson, Daniel P. Costa, Kylie L. Scales
Individual behavioural specialisation has far-reaching effects on fitness and population persistence. Theory predicts that unconditional site fidelity, that is fidelity to a site independent of past outcome, provides a fitness advantage in unpredictable environments. However, the benefits of alternative site fidelity strategies driving intraspecific variation remain poorly understood and have not been evaluated in different environmental contexts. We show that contrary to expectation, strong and weak site fidelity strategies in migratory northern elephant seals performed similarly over 10 years, but the success of each strategy varied interannually and was strongly mediated by climate conditions. Strong fidelity facilitated stable energetic rewards and low risk, while weak fidelity facilitated high rewards and high risk. Weak fidelity outperformed strong fidelity in anomalous climate conditions, suggesting that the evolutionary benefits of site fidelity may be upended by increasing environmental variability. We highlight how individual behavioural specialisation may modulate the adaptive capacity of species to climate change.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ele.12871

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