Niche partitioning of sympatric penguins by leapfrog foraging appears to be resilient to climate change.
ABSTRACT: Interspecific competition can drive niche partitioning along multidimensional axes, including allochrony. Competitor matching will arise where the phenology of sympatric species with similar ecological requirements responds to climate change at different rates such that allochrony is reduced. Our study quantifies the degree of niche segregation in foraging areas and depths that arises from allochrony in sympatric Adélie and chinstrap penguins and explores its resilience to climate change. Three-dimensional tracking data were sampled during all stages of the breeding season and were used to parameterise a behaviour-based model that quantified spatial overlap of foraging areas under different scenarios of allochrony. The foraging ranges of the two species were similar within breeding stages, but differences in their foraging ranges between stages, combined with the observed allochrony of 28 days, resulted in them leapfrogging each other through the breeding season such that they were exploiting different foraging locations on the same calendar dates. Allochrony reduced spatial overlap in the peripheral utilisation distribution of the two species by 54.0% over the entire breeding season, compared to a scenario where the two species bred synchronously. Analysis of long-term phenology data revealed that both species advanced their laying dates in relation to October air temperatures at the same rate, preserving allochrony and niche partitioning. However, if allochrony is reduced by just a single day, the spatial overlap of the core utilisation distribution increased by an average of 2.1% over the entire breeding season. Niche partitioning between the two species by allochrony appears to be resilient to climate change and so competitor matching cannot be implicated in the observed population declines of the two penguin species across the Western Antarctic Peninsula.
Project description:Climate-induced range overlap can result in novel interactions between similar species and potentially lead to competitive exclusion. The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth and is experiencing a poleward climate migration from a polar to subpolar environment. This has resulted in a range expansion of the ice-intolerant gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and a coincident decrease in ice-obligate Adélie penguins (P. adeliae) near Palmer Station, Anvers Island, WAP. Ecologically similar species that share a limited prey resource must occupy disparate foraging niches in order to co-exist. Therefore, we determined the extent of foraging and dietary niche segregation between Adélie and gentoo penguins during the austral breeding season near Palmer Station. This research was conducted across six breeding seasons, from 2009 to 2014, which allowed us to investigate niche overlap in the context of interannual resource variability. Using biotelemetry and diet sampling, we found substantial overlap in the diets of Adélie and gentoo penguins, who primarily consumed Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba); however, our results showed that Adélie and gentoo penguins partitioned this shared prey resource through horizontal segregation of their core foraging areas. We did not find evidence that Antarctic krill were a limiting resource during the breeding season or that climate-induced sympatry of Adélie and gentoo penguins resulted in competition for prey or caused the subsequent differing population trajectories. This apparent absence of resource competition between Adélie and gentoo penguins throughout this study implies that current population trends in this region are governed by other biological and physical factors. Our results highlight the importance of understanding the mechanistic processes that influence top predator populations in the context of climate-driven ecosystem shifts.
Project description:When species competing for the same resources coexist, some segregation in the way they utilize those resources is expected. However, little is known about how closely related sympatric breeding species segregate outside the breeding season. We investigated the annual segregation of three closely related seabirds (razorbill Alcatorda, common guillemot Uriaaalge and Brünnich's guillemot U. lomvia) breeding at the same colony in Southwest Greenland. By combining GPS and geolocation (GLS) tracking with dive depth and stable isotope analyses, we compared spatial and dietary resource partitioning. During the breeding season, we found the three species to segregate in diet and/or dive depth, but less in foraging area. During both the post-breeding and pre-breeding periods, the three species had an increased overlap in diet, but were dispersed over a larger spatial scale. Dive depths were similar across the annual cycle, suggesting morphological adaptations fixed by evolution. Prey choice, on the other hand, seemed much more flexible and therefore more likely to be affected by the immediate presence of potential competitors.
Project description:The question of whether migratory birds track a specific climatic niche by seasonal movements has important implications for understanding the evolution of migration, the factors affecting species' distributions, and the responses of migrants to climate change. Despite much research, previous studies of bird migration have produced mixed results. However, whether migrants track climate is only one half of the question, the other being why residents remain in the same geographic range year-round. We provide a literature overview and test the hypothesis of seasonal niche tracking by evaluating seasonal climatic niche overlap across 437 migratory and resident species from eight clades of passerine birds. Seasonal climatic niches were based on a new global dataset of breeding and nonbreeding ranges. Overlap between climatic niches was quantified using ordination methods. We compared niche overlap of migratory species to two null expectations, (a) a scenario in which they do not migrate and (b) in comparison with the overlap experienced by closely related resident species, while controlling for breeding location and range size. Partly in accordance with the hypothesis of niche tracking, we found that the overlap of breeding versus nonbreeding climatic conditions in migratory species was greater than the overlap they would experience if they did not migrate. However, this was only true for migrants breeding outside the tropics and only relative to the overlap species would experience if they stayed in the breeding range year-round. In contrast to the hypothesis of niche tracking, migratory species experienced lower seasonal climatic niche overlap than resident species, with significant differences between tropical and nontropical species. Our study suggests that in seasonal nontropical environments migration away from the breeding range may serve to avoid seasonally harsh climate; however, different factors may drive seasonal movements in the climatically more stable tropical regions.
Project description:UNLABELLED: INTRODUCTION: Our purpose was to assess how pairs of sibling horseshoe bats coexists when their morphology and echolocation are almost identical. We collected data on echolocation, wing morphology, diet, and habitat use of sympatric Rhinolophus mehelyi and R. euryale. We compared our results with literature data collected in allopatry with similar protocols and at the same time of the year (breeding season). RESULTS: Echolocation frequencies recorded in sympatry for R. mehelyi (mean = 106.8 kHz) and R. euryale (105.1 kHz) were similar to those reported in allopatry (R. mehelyi 105-111 kHz; R. euryale 101-109 kHz). Wing parameters were larger in R. mehelyi than R. euryale for both sympatric and allopatric conditions. Moths constitute the bulk of the diet of both species in sympatry and allopatry, with minor variation in the amounts of other prey. There were no inter-specific differences in the use of foraging habitats in allopatry in terms of structural complexity, however we found inter-specific differences between sympatric populations: R. mehelyi foraged in less complex habitats. The subtle inter-specific differences in echolocation frequency seems to be unlikely to facilitate dietary niche partitioning; overall divergences observed in diet may be explained as a consequence of differential prey availability among foraging habitats. Inter-specific differences in the use of foraging habitats in sympatry seems to be the main dimension for niche partitioning between R. mehelyi and R. euryale, probably due to letter differences in wing morphology. CONCLUSIONS: Coexistence between sympatric sibling horseshoe bats is likely allowed by a displacement in spatial niche dimension, presumably due to the wing morphology of each species, and shifts the niche domains that minimise competition. Effective measures for conservation of sibling/similar horseshoe bats should guarantee structural diversity of foraging habitats.
Project description:Understanding how climate-mediated biotic interactions shape thermal niche width is critical in an era of global change. Yet, most previous work on thermal niches has ignored detailed mechanistic information about the relationship between temperature and organismal performance, which can be described by a thermal performance curve. Here, we develop a model that predicts the width of thermal performance curves will be narrower in the presence of interspecific competitors, causing a species' optimal breeding temperature to diverge from that of its competitor. We test this prediction in the Asian burying beetle Nicrophorus nepalensis, confirming that the divergence in actual and optimal breeding temperatures is the result of competition with their primary competitor, blowflies. However, we further show that intraspecific cooperation enables beetles to outcompete blowflies by recovering their optimal breeding temperature. Ultimately, linking abiotic factors and biotic interactions on niche width will be critical for understanding species-specific responses to climate change.
Project description:Background:The timing of events in the early part of the breeding season is crucially important for successful reproduction. Long-lived animals that migrate large distances independently of each other meet at the breeding sites to re-establish their pair bonds and coordinate their breeding duties with their partners. Methods:Using miniature light-geolocation and immersion data together with blood stable isotopes, we studied the early breeding season in Thin-billed prions Pachyptila belcheri, Antarctic prions P. desolata and Blue petrels Halobaena caerulea breeding at Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean. These three species exhibit differences in their winter habitat and timing of migration, moult and breeding. We hypothesised that these differences would influence their behaviour during the early breeding season. Results:In line with our hypothesis, we found clear differences not only in the timing of colony attendance, but also in the time budgets while at sea and in habitat use. Both early breeding Blue petrels and late breeding Antarctic prions spent about 8?h per day in flight and 15?h foraging. In comparison, Thin-billed prions, which breed in mid-summer, spent less time (5?h daily) in flight and more time (18?h daily) foraging, thus maximizing the time spent foraging during the longest daylight days of the year. While the ecological habitat parameters (sea temperature, wind, productivity) of Thin-billed prions and Blue petrels were relatively stable throughout the year, Antarctic prions showed clear niche switching, caused by leapfrogging between the northernmost winter distribution to the southernmost distribution during the early breeding season. Blood stable isotopes confirmed the habitat switch between the inter-breeding and early breeding periods and highlighted trophic segregation with Blue petrels feeding more on fish and Antarctic petrels more on crustaceans during the early breeding period. Conclusion:We found that the three sympatric petrel species segregated in time and space, both in the winter and the early breeding season. The interplay of timing and distribution meant that the three species show the full range of migratory strategies, from niche-tracking Blue petrels to niche-switching Antarctic prions. The latitudinal distribution resembled the leapfrogging of terrestrial avian migrant species or populations.
Project description:Identifying the mechanisms that structure niche breadth and overlap between species is important for determining how species interact and assessing their functional role in an ecosystem. Without manipulative experiments, assessing the role of foraging ecology and interspecific competition in structuring diet is challenging. Systems with regular pulses of resources act as a natural experiment to investigate the factors that influence the dietary niches of consumers. We used natural pulses of mast-fruiting of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) to test whether optimal foraging or competition structure the dietary niche breadth and overlap between two congener rodent species (Peromyscus leucopus and P. maniculatus), both of which are generalist consumers. We reconstructed diets seasonally over a 2-year period using stable isotope analysis (?13C, ?15N) of hair and of potential dietary items and measured niche dynamics using standard ellipse area calculated within a Bayesian framework. Changes in niche breadth were generally consistent with predictions of optimal foraging theory, with both species consuming more beechnuts (a high-quality food resource) and having a narrower niche breadth during masting seasons compared to nonmasting seasons when dietary niches expanded and more fungi (a low-quality food source) were consumed. In contrast, changes in dietary niche overlap were consistent with competition theory, with higher diet overlap during masting seasons than during nonmasting seasons. Overall, dietary niche dynamics were closely tied to beech masting, underscoring that food availability influences competition. Diet plasticity and niche partitioning between the two Peromyscus species may reflect differences in foraging strategies, thereby reducing competition when food availability is low. Such dietary shifts may have important implications for changes in ecosystem function, including the dispersal of fungal spores.
Project description:A species presence at a particular site can change over time, resulting in temporally dynamic species pools. Ecological niche models provide estimates of species presence at different time intervals. The avifauna of La Brea includes approximately 120 species dating to approximately 15,000 years ago. Niche models predicted presence at the Last Glacial Maximum for over 90% of 89 landbird species. This confirms that niche modeling produces sensible range estimates at the Last Glacial Maximum. For 97 currently local species that are as yet undocumented at La Brea over 90% were predicted to occur; absence is due to insufficient study, lack of the ecological niche, transient occurrence or a behavioral ability to avoid entrapment. Our 366 niche models provide a prospective checklist of the landbird fauna of La Brea. The models indicate fluidity in life history strategies and a higher proportion of resident birds at the LGM (88% to 60%). We evaluated a subset of 103 species in breeding and winter periods using two climate models (MIROC-ESM, CCSM4) with a variety of differing parameters, finding differences in 5% of the niche models. Niche breadths in bark-foraging birds changed little between the present and LGM, suggesting that greater species diversity at the LGM was due to greater niche availability rather than contractions of niche breadths (i.e., niche partitioning).
Project description:While sexual segregation is expected in highly dimorphic species, the local environment is a major factor driving the degree of resource partitioning within a population. Sexual and individual niche segregation was investigated in the Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus), which is a benthic foraging species restricted to the shallow continental shelf region of south-eastern Australia. Tracking data and the isotopic values of plasma, red blood cells and whiskers were combined to document spatial and dietary niche segregation throughout the year. Tracking data indicated that, in winter, males and females overlapped in their foraging habitat. All individuals stayed within central Bass Strait, relatively close (< 220 km) to the breeding colony. Accordingly, both genders exhibited similar plasma and red cell ?13C values. However, males exhibited greater ?13C intra-individual variation along the length of their whisker than females. This suggests that males exploited a greater diversity of foraging habitats throughout the year than their female counterparts, which are restricted in their foraging grounds by the need to regularly return to the breeding colony to suckle their pup. The degree of dietary sexual segregation was also surprisingly low, both sexes exhibiting a great overlap in their ?15N values. Yet, males displayed higher ?15N values than females, suggesting they fed upon a higher proportion of higher trophic level prey. Given that males and females exploit different resources (mainly foraging habitats), the degree of individual specialisation might differ between the sexes. Higher degrees of individual specialisation would be expected in males which exploit a greater range of resources. However, comparable levels of inter-individual variation in ?15N whisker values were found in the sampled males and females, and, surprisingly, all males exhibited similar seasonal and inter-annual variation in their ?13C whisker values, suggesting they all followed the same general dispersion pattern throughout the year.
Project description:According to niche theory, mechanisms exist that allow co-existence of organisms that would otherwise compete for the same prey and other resources. How seabirds cope with potential competition during the non-breeding period is poorly documented, particularly for small species. Here we investigate for the first time the potential role of spatial, environmental (habitat) and trophic (isotopic) segregation as niche-partitioning mechanisms during the non-breeding season for four species of highly abundant, zooplanktivorous seabird that breed sympatrically in the Southern Ocean. Spatial segregation was found to be the main partitioning mechanism; even for the two sibling species of diving petrel, which spent the non-breeding period in overlapping areas, there was evidence from distribution and stable isotope ratios for differences in habitat use and diving depth.