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Sex-specific provisioning behaviour in a monomorphic seabird with a bimodal foraging strategy

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Sexual differences in foraging and provisioning behaviour have been observed in several size-dimorphic seabird species. These differences are usually thought to be driven by size-related mechanisms such as the ability to compete for food or defend the nest. However, recent studies on monomorphic species suggest that sexual differences in foraging may arise independently of size. Selective forces driving sex-specific patterns are poorly known but essential to understand parental strategies. In this study, we examine sex differences in the provisioning behaviour of a monomorphic species, the Little Auk Alle alle. Using automated recording systems during two consecutive seasons at two colonies, we found that both sexes used a bimodal foraging strategy in which they regularly alternated single foraging trips of long duration with a cycle of several short-trips. The duration of long-trips was substantially longer in females than in males, and the sexes differed in the number of short-trips they performed in between long-trips, resulting in male-biased provisioning rates in both years. In species with a bimodal foraging strategy, long-trips have been interpreted as self-feeding trips to replenish body reserves. Our results therefore suggest that female Little Auks allocate more time to self-maintenance at the cost of chick provisioning, possibly due to different energetic constraints of the sexes prior and/or subsequent to chick-rearing. Our findings contribute to accumulating evidence that sex-specific foraging patterns may be widespread in sexually size-monomorphic seabird species.

Keywords: Alle alle; Little Auk; feeding rate; parental care; sexual size-dimorphism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Polar Institute, Polarmiljøsenteret, 9296 Tromsø, Norway 2: Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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