Institute of Avian Research

Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Germany

Institute of Avian Research

Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Germany
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Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | Quinn J.L.,University College Cork | Sheldon B.C.,University of Oxford | Verhulst S.,University of Groningen
Oikos | Year: 2014

Personality and metabolic rate are predicted to show covariance on methodological and functional grounds, but empirical studies at the individual level are rare, especially in natural populations. Here we assess the relationship between exploration behaviour, an important axis of personality, and basal metabolic rate (BMR) for 680 free-living great tits Parus major, studied over three years. We find that exploration behaviour is weakly negatively related to BMR among female, but not male, birds. Moreover, we find exploration behaviour to be independent of methodological aspects of BMR measurements (e.g. activity levels, time to acclimatize) which have been suggested to be indicative of personality-related activity or stress levels during measurement. This suggests that the weak link between exploration behaviour and BMR found here is functional rather than methodological. We therefore test the hypothesis that selection favours covariance between exploration behaviour and metabolic rate, but find no evidence for correlational survival or fecundity selection. Our data therefore provide at best only very weak evidence for a functional link between personality and metabolic rate, and we suggest that studies of personality and metabolic strategies, or personality and daily energy expenditure, are required to further resolve the link between personality and metabolic rate. © 2013 The Authors.


Boonekamp J.J.,University of Groningen | Salomons M.,University of Groningen | Bouwhuis S.,University of Groningen | Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | And 2 more authors.
Ecology Letters | Year: 2014

Optimality theories of ageing predict that the balance between reproductive effort and somatic maintenance determines the rate of ageing. Laboratory studies find that increased reproductive effort shortens lifespan, but through increased short-term mortality rather than ageing. In contrast, high fecundity in early life is associated with accelerated senescence in free-living vertebrates, but these studies are non-experimental. We performed lifelong brood size manipulation in free-living jackdaws. Actuarial senescence - the increase in mortality rate with age - was threefold higher in birds rearing enlarged- compared to reduced broods, confirming a key prediction of the optimality theory of ageing. Our findings contrast with the results of single-year brood size manipulation studies carried out in many species, in which there was no overall discernible manipulation effect on mortality. We suggest that our and previous findings are in agreement with predictions based on the reliability theory of ageing and propose further tests of this proposition. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.


Vedder O.,University of Oxford | Bouwhuis S.,University of Oxford | Bouwhuis S.,Institute of Avian Research | Sheldon B.C.,University of Oxford
PLoS Biology | Year: 2013

Predictions about the fate of species or populations under climate change scenarios typically neglect adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity, the two major mechanisms by which organisms can adapt to changing local conditions. As a consequence, we have little understanding of the scope for organisms to track changing environments by in situ adaptation. Here, we use a detailed individual-specific long-term population study of great tits (Parus major) breeding in Wytham Woods, Oxford, UK to parameterise a mechanistic model and thus directly estimate the rate of environmental change to which in situ adaptation is possible. Using the effect of changes in early spring temperature on temporal synchrony between birds and a critical food resource, we focus in particular on the contribution of phenotypic plasticity to population persistence. Despite using conservative estimates for evolutionary and reproductive potential, our results suggest little risk of population extinction under projected local temperature change; however, this conclusion relies heavily on the extent to which phenotypic plasticity tracks the changing environment. Extrapolating the model to a broad range of life histories in birds suggests that the importance of phenotypic plasticity for adjustment to projected rates of temperature change increases with slower life histories, owing to lower evolutionary potential. Understanding the determinants and constraints on phenotypic plasticity in natural populations is thus crucial for characterising the risks that rapidly changing environments pose for the persistence of such populations. © 2013 Vedder et al.


Eikenaar C.,Institute of Avian Research | Husak J.,University of St. Thomas, Minnesota | Escallon C.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Moore I.T.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
American Naturalist | Year: 2012

Latitudinal variation in life-history traits has been the focus of numerous investigations, but underlying hormonal mechanisms have received much less attention. Steroid hormones play a central role in vertebrate reproduction and may be associated with life-history trade-offs. Consequently, circulating concentrations of these hormones vary tremendously across vertebrates, yet interspecific geographic variation in male hormone concentrations has been studied in detail only in birds. We here report on such variation in amphibians and reptiles, confirming patterns observed in birds. Using phylogenetic comparative analyses, we found that in amphibians, but not in reptiles, testosterone and baseline corticosterone were positively related to latitude. Baseline corticosterone was negatively related to elevation in amphibians but not in reptiles. For both groups, testosterone concentrations were negatively related to breeding- season length. In addition, testosterone concentrations were positively correlated with baseline corticosterone in both groups. Our findings may best be explained by the hypothesis that shorter breeding seasons increase male-male competition, which may favor increased testosterone concentrations that modulate secondary sexual traits. Elevated energetic demands resulting from greater reproductive intensity may require higher baseline corticosterone. Thus, the positive relationship between testosterone and corticosterone in both groups suggests an energetic demand for testosterone-regulated behavior that is met with increased baseline glucocorticoid concentrations. © 2012 by The University of Chicago.


Forschler M.I.,Institute of Avian Research | Bairlein F.,Institute of Avian Research
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

We studied morphological differentiation in the flight apparatus of the four currently recognised sub-species of Northern Wheatears, Oenanthe oenanthe. Considering all measured birds without assigning them a priori to any sub-species we found a clinal morphological shift. Relative wing length, wing pointedness, and the degree of tail forking were positively correlated with migratory distance, whereas tail length (relative to wing length) was negatively correlated. The large-sized, long-distance migrant "Greenland" Wheatear, O. o. leucorhoa, is characterized by relatively longer, broader and more pointed wings and more forked tails, similar to the smaller-sized nominate Northern Wheatear, O. o. oenanthe, from North Europe, Siberia and Russia. In contrast, the short distance migrant "Seebohm's" Wheatear, O. o. seebohmi, from northwest Africa, possesses much rounder wings, and the tail is relatively longer and less forked. Sub-species with intermediate migratory habits (different populations of nominate Northern Wheatear, O. o. oenanthe, and "Mediterranean" Northern Wheatear, O. o. libanotica) show, as expected, intermediate features according to their intermediate migratory behaviour. Our results are congruent with other inter- and intraspecific studies finding similar adaptations for energy-effective flight in relation to migration distance (morphological migratory syndrome). © 2011 Förschler, Bairlein.


Schmaljohann H.,Institute of Avian Research | Naef-Daenzer B.,Swiss Ornithological Institute
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2011

1.An innate migration strategy guides birds through space and time. Environmental variation further modulates individual behaviour within a genetically determined frame. In particular, ecological barriers could influence departure direction and its timing. A shift in the migratory direction in response to an ecological barrier could reveal how birds adjust their individual trajectories to environmental cues and body condition. 2.Northern wheatears of the Greenland/Iceland subspecies Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa arrive in Western Europe en route from their West African winter range. They then undergo an endogenously controlled shift in migratory direction from north to north-west to cross a large ecological barrier, the North Atlantic. We radiotracked these songbirds departing from Helgoland, a small island in the North Sea, over an unprecedented range of their journey. 3.Here, we show that both birds' body condition and the wind conditions that they encountered influenced the departure direction significantly. Jointly high fuel loads and favourable wind conditions enabled migrants to cross large stretches of sea. Birds in good condition departed early in the night heading to the sea towards their breeding areas, while birds with low fuel loads and/or flying in poor weather conditions departed in directions leading towards nearby mainland areas during the entire night. These areas could be reached even after setting off late at night. 4.Behavioural adjustment of migratory patterns is a critical adaptation for crossing ecological barriers. The observed variation in departure direction and time in relation to fuel load and wind revealed that these birds have an innate ability to respond by jointly incorporating internal information (body condition) and external information (wind support). © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.


Szostek K.L.,Institute of Avian Research | Becker P.H.,Institute of Avian Research
Oecologia | Year: 2015

We estimated annual apparent survival rates, as well as local recruitment rates in different age groups and for different breeding status in the common tern Sterna hirundo using mark–recapture analysis on a long-term individual-based dataset from a breeding colony in Germany. Strong inter-annual variability in survival rates became apparent, especially in prospectors. Local recruitment also varied strongly between years and age groups. To explain these fluctuations, we linked survival and recruitment estimates to several environmental covariates expected to be limiting during the wintering period and migration, including the global climate indices of North Atlantic Oscillation and Southern Oscillation, fish abundance indices, and marine primary productivity in the West African wintering area. Contrary to expectations, global indices did not seem to be linked strongly to vital rates. Results showed that primary productivity had the strongest effect on annual survival, especially in young and inexperienced individuals. Primary productivity in the wintering area was also strongly associated with the probability of recruitment in the following breeding season, indicating that conditions during winter can have carry-over effects on the life cycle of individuals. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Danhardt A.,Institute of Avian Research | Becker P.H.,Institute of Avian Research
Ecosystems | Year: 2011

Herring (Clupea harengus) and sprat (Sprattus sprattus) are the key prey resources of common terns (Sterna hirundo) breeding in the Wadden Sea. Breeding success of the terns has been below average since 2002, coinciding with exceptionally low herring recruitment and sprat abundance. Time series of herring and sprat abundance in the North Sea and in the Wadden Sea were analyzed to explain long-term breeding success and chick development at two common tern breeding colonies. North Sea herring recruitment and sprat abundance in the Wadden Sea explained the largest part of common tern breeding success, both as single variables and in a multiple regression approach. Breeding success showed stronger correlations with herring recruitment indices derived from the North Sea region compared to the Wadden Sea. Also, herring and sprat abundance data explained more variability in breeding success than of more directly responding measures such as growth rate and maximum weight of chicks. Despite spatial and temporal incoherences between fish surveys and the common tern breeding season, breeding success of common terns reflected the abundance of their key prey fish beyond their foraging range and breeding season. We argue that the ecological connectivity between large- and small-scale herring abundance and the responsiveness of common tern breeding success is strong enough to establish a fish-seabird indicator system to be potentially valuable in monitoring and conservation. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


Eikenaar C.,Institute of Avian Research | Schlafke J.L.,Institute of Avian Research
Biology Letters | Year: 2013

Early arrival at the breeding site positively affects the breeding success of migratory birds. During migration, birds spend most of their time at stopovers. Therefore, determining which factors shape stopover duration is essential to our understanding of avian migration. Because the main purpose of stopover is to accumulate fat as fuel for the next flight bout, fuel reserves at arrival and the accumulation of fuel are both expected to affect stopover departure decisions. Here, we determined whether fuel reserves and fuel accumulation predict a bird's motivation to depart, as quantified by nocturnal migratory restlessness (Zugunruhe), using northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) that were captured and temporarily contained at spring stopover. We found that fuel reserves at capture were positively correlated with Zugunruhe, and negatively correlated with fuel accumulation. This indicates that fat birds were motivated to depart, whereas lean birds were set on staying and accumulating fuel. Moreover, the change in fuel reserves was positively correlated with the concurrent change in Zugunruhe, providing the first empirical evidence for a direct link between fuel accumulation and Zugunruhe during stopover. Our study indicates that, together with innate rhythms and weather, the size and accumulation of fuel reserves shape stopover duration, and hence overall migration time. © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.


Danhardt A.,Institute of Avian Research | Becker P.H.,Institute of Avian Research
Journal of Sea Research | Year: 2011

Food availability is a key variable influencing breeding performance and demography of marine top predators. Due to methodological problems, proportionality between fish abundance and availability is often assumed without being explicitly tested. More specifically, better breeding performance of surface-feeding seabirds at times of large prey stocks suggests that prey availability is also a function of prey abundance. Using vertically resolved stow net sampling we tested whether local abundance and length composition of pelagic fish are reliable predictors of the availability of these fish to surface-feeding Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) breeding in the German Wadden Sea. Prey fish were found to concentrate below the maximum diving depth of the terns. Individuals caught close to the surface were in most cases smaller than conspecifics caught at greater depth. Correlations between fish abundance within and out of reach of the terns appeared to be both species- and site-specific rather than driven by overall fish abundance. Vertical distribution patterns of the terns' main prey fish could be explained as anti-predator behavior, reducing prey availability to the terns. In 2007, when breeding performance was much better than in 2006, herring and whiting were much more abundant, suggesting that overall prey abundance may also increase prey availability in habitats other than those represented by the stow net sampling. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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