Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Bold females and shy males. Which personality is best for a Black-browed Albatross?

Samantha Patrick and Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, France) write in the open-access journal PLoS ONE on how personality (measured on a bold-shy scale) is related to foraging behaviour in ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“While personality differences in animals are defined as consistent behavioural variation between individuals, the widely studied field of foraging specialisation in marine vertebrates has rarely been addressed within this framework.  However there is much overlap between the two fields, both aiming to measure the causes and consequences of consistent individual behaviour.  Here for the first time we use both a classic measure of personality, the response to a novel object, and an estimate of foraging strategy, derived from GPS data, to examine individual personality differences in black browed albatross and their consequences for fitness.  First, we examine the repeatability of personality scores and link these to variation in foraging habitat.  Bolder individuals forage nearer the colony, in shallower regions, whereas shyer birds travel further from the colony, and fed in deeper oceanic waters.  Interestingly, neither personality score predicted a bird’s overlap with fisheries.  Second, we show that both personality scores are correlated with fitness consequences, dependent on sex and year quality.  Our data suggest that shyer males and bolder females have higher fitness, but the strength of this relationship depends on year quality.  Females who forage further from the colony have higher breeding success in poor quality years, whereas males foraging close to the colony always have higher fitness.  Together these results highlight the potential importance of personality variation in seabirds and that the fitness consequences of boldness and foraging strategy may be highly sex dependent.”

Black-browed Albatrosses, photograph by Graham Robertson

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Reference:

Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Personality, foraging and fitness consequences in a long lived seabird.  PLoS ONE 9(2): e87269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087269.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2014