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Ocean climate variability links incubation behaviour and fitness in Ancient Murrelets (Synthliboramphus antiquus)

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Large-scale interannual and decadal variation in ocean conditions, including sea-surface temperature (SST) has been shown to affect the breeding behaviour of marine birds in the North Pacific. However, as individual species respond differently to changing food supplies, our understanding of the role of climate variation in seabirds is limited. To examine the effect of ocean conditions on breeding behaviour, we measured incubation shift lengths of Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus (Gmelin, 1789)), a small marine bird with exceptionally long incubation shift length, in seven, nonconsecutive years. We compared variation in shift length with interyear variation in regional SST. Incubation shifts were longer in years when March–May SST was higher. In years with longer shift length, birds have lower reproductive success. Our results suggested that Ancient Murrelets on Haida Gwaii can adjust their incubation patterns by extending their shift length in relation to SST fluctuations during breeding season.

Keywords: Ancient Murrelet; Pacific; Pacifique; Synthliboramphus antiquus; guillemot à cou blanc; incubation shift length; longueur des quarts d’incubation; sea-surface temperature; température de surface de la mer

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, 30 Marie Curie, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada. 2: Atsubetsuku Kita 3-5-1-1-903, Sapporoshi, Hokkaido, 004-0073, Japan.

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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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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