Does food abundance explain altitudinal migration in a tropical frugivorous bird?

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Abstract:

Many animals undergo annual migrations. These movements are well studied at proximate levels, but their fundamental causes are poorly understood. Among tropical frugivorous birds, annual migration is thought to have evolved in the context of exploiting reciprocal peaks in fruit abundance among locations and seasons, yet previous tests of this hypothesis have yielded equivocal results. In this paper, I tested whether protein and (or) fruit limitation explain both uphill and downhill migratory movements in a tropical frugivorous bird, the White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera Hellmayer, 1906). While White-ruffed Manakins likely migrate uphill to exploit peaks in fruit abundance, I found no evidence that elevational differences in fruit abundance explain the downhill portion of the migratory cycle. This result challenges long-standing ideas regarding the causes of altitudinal migration because it implies that birds seeking to maximize fruit intake should remain sedentary at higher elevations. Data are also inconsistent with the hypothesis that White-ruffed Manakins migrate (either uphill or downhill) to exploit arthropod prey. Future studies should consider how variation in weather, predators, or parasites could help explain altitudinal migrations of birds from breeding areas to nonbreeding areas.

Plusieurs animaux entreprennent des migrations annuelles. Ces déplacements sont bien étudiés à l’échelle immédiate, mais leurs causes fondamentalement restent mal comprises. Chez les oiseaux frugivores tropicaux, on croit que la migration annuelle s’est développée afin d’exploiter des pics inversés d’abondance de fruits entre des endroits ou des saisons, bien que des tests antérieurs de cette hypothèse aient donné des résultats équivoques. Ce travail vérifie si les restrictions en protéines et(ou) en fruits expliquent les déplacements de migration vers le haut et le bas chez un oiseau frugivore tropical, le manakin à fraise (Corapipo altera Hellmayer, 1906). Les manakins à fraise migrent vraisemblablement en altitude pour exploiter des pics d’abondance de fruits. Il n’y a cependant aucune indication de différences altitudinales d’abondance de fruits pour expliquer la partie descendante du cycle migratoire. Ces résultats remettent en question des idées reçues depuis longtemps concernant les causes des migrations en altitude parce qu’ils laissent croire que les oiseaux qui voudraient maximiser leur apport de fruits devraient demeurer sédentaires aux altitudes plus élevées. Les données sont aussi incompatibles avec l’hypothèse selon laquelle les manakins à fraise migrent (vers le haut ou le bas) pour exploiter des proies arthropodes. Les études futures devraient examiner comment les variations de climat, de prédateurs ou de parasites peuvent aider à expliquer les migrations en altitude des oiseaux à partir de leurs sites de reproduction vers des sites non reproductifs.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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