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Feeding ecology of Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) in the North Atlantic Ocean at various spatio-temporal scales

Abstract : Physical, chemical and biological processes generate considerable variability in the distribution and abundance of marine organisms. In order to survive and successfully breed, marine predators, among them seabirds, must adjust their movements to changes in the availability of their prey. We studied the foraging behaviour of the northern gannet Morus bassanus in several European colonies to understand how a flexible predator manages environmental variability. We analysed records from miniaturized data loggers (GPS and geolocators) at five spatio-temporal scales: individual, populational, meta-populational, seasonal and inter-annual. These data revealed strong individual plasticity, which allows gannets to modulate the length and duration of their foraging trips and to exploit a panel of memorized feeding areas, for which they anticipate location from a distance. We identified differences in the movements at sea and in home range between colonies during the breeding and the interbreeding seasons. Although gannets were thought to follow a non-oriented dispersion during the interbreeding season; our results showed a clear migratory corridor from Shetland to the West African coast. These results have major implications for a better comprehension of spatial ecology of marine predators facing natural and anthropogenic variability of their environment, as well as for population management, the implementation of marine protected areas, and any conservation measures which depend on spatio-temporal dynamics.
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Emeline Pettex. Feeding ecology of Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) in the North Atlantic Ocean at various spatio-temporal scales. Life Sciences [q-bio]. Université Montpellier II - Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, 2011. English. ⟨tel-00825001⟩

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