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Où va la jeunesse ? Mouvements et quête alimentaire des juvéniles de procellariiformes durant leur première année en mer

Abstract : The juvenile stage of animals is often much of a mystery to scientists. Moreover, juvenile survival is known to be a strong determinant for the future of a population. Indeed, juvenile animals are known to face high mortality during the first months after independence, with survival rates improving with age. One ultimate hypothesis implies that juveniles have a lower survival rate than adults because of their lack of experience. Thus they are initially poor foragers and require a learning period (immaturity) to improve their efficiency before being able to bear breeding and its associated energetic costs. Proximal factors also influence juvenile survival, such as environmental fluctuations and competition. Studies on terrestrial animals have provided useful information thanks to the possibility of direct observation and, recently, bio-logging technologies. However, collecting data in the marine environment is more difficult, particularly when juveniles are concerned. Long-lived marine species such as seabirds have an extensive immature period extending from a few years up to more than ten years. The offspring of these species will usually leave their natal site and disperse at sea for several years before returning to breed on land, most of the time at their place of birth. This makes it difficult to obtain direct observations, and so documenting their first journey at sea to learn more about their behavioural and foraging ecology is a challenge. In this context, this PhD aims to unravel at least part of the mystery of juvenile seabirds’ early life by investigating the first months at sea of newly fledged individuals from several long-lived species of procellariiformes. Using state of the art advancements in biotelemetry, I was able to follow, at sea, by satellite a large set of juveniles from nine closely related species of albatross and petrel breeding in the French Southern Territories of the Southern Ocean : Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam Islands. Some of these species had never been tracked before. Trajectories were analysed using various new statistical methods that allowed movement strategies, alongside foraging behaviour and spatial distributions, to be described, all in tight link with environmental conditions. The findings were discussed in the light of a comparison with adults of the same species. Using this huge dataset I first examined the dispersal strategies of young birds that had left their nest and were totally independent from their parents. I showed that the strategies, as well as the amount of innate information controlling them are highly variable depending on species. Their movements take them in various habitats following or not the parental strategies. The amount of variability in juvenile strategies is linked to potential plasticity when facing environmental changes. These parameters are related to the history life trait of species, and might affect demography and population dynamics. In addition, by analysing juvenile wandering albatross tracks I showed that although they quickly learn the basics of flight and foraging optimization required to survive at sea, behavioural differences with adults persist in time, suggesting that non-observable behaviours need a longer period of learning and memorisation. Finally, whatever the strategy adopted, it seems to be driven in part by intraspecific competition since juveniles mitigate competition with older birds by segregating spatially. This last point highlights the crucial need of acknowledging age-related distribution when making management decisions to protect seabird populations. This work provides new insights about several major aspects of the at-sea ecology of naïve individuals foraging alone in a highly unpredictable environment. We learn here how instinct followed by experience shape specific early life strategies that allow young birds to deal with environmental conditions and interspecific competition so as to be able to survive.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 12:14:41 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 2:46:45 AM


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  • HAL Id : tel-01661452, version 1



Sophie Jeudi de Grissac. Où va la jeunesse ? Mouvements et quête alimentaire des juvéniles de procellariiformes durant leur première année en mer. Sciences agricoles. Université de La Rochelle, 2016. Français. ⟨NNT : 2016LAROS016⟩. ⟨tel-01661452⟩



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