Individual responses in spring arrival date to ecological conditions during winter and migration in a migratory bird.
ABSTRACT 1. We studied lifetime arrival patterns in the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica L.) in relation to variation in ecological conditions, as reflected by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in the Sub-Saharan winter quarters and at stopover sites in North Africa. 2. Migratory birds have recently advanced their arrival dates, but the relative role of microevolution and phenotypic plasticity as mechanisms of response to changing environmental conditions remains unknown. To distinguish between these two possibilities, we investigated the change in the arrival date using cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. 3. We predicted that the effect (i.e. slopes) of environmental conditions in stopover or winter areas on arrival date should be similar using cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in case phenotypic plasticity is the underlying mechanism, or they should differ in case microevolution is the mechanism. 4. As expected according to a previous cross-sectional study, we found an advance in the arrival date when ecological conditions improve in stopover areas and a delay in the arrival date when ecological conditions improve in the winter quarters. 5. Change in the arrival time at the breeding grounds due to ecological conditions found en route and, in the winter areas, was mainly due to phenotypic plasticity as shown by similarities in the slopes found in these relationships using cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. 6. We also investigated sex and age of barns swallows as sources of variation in the arrival time with respect to conditions experienced in winter and stopover areas. We found that earlier arrival at the breeding grounds due to prevailing ecological conditions found en route in North Africa was similar for males and females of all age-classes. In contrast, individuals tended to delay departure when ecological conditions improved in the winter quarters, but this delay differed among age classes, with old individuals delaying departure more than middle-aged and yearling birds. 7. The migratory response of individuals to changing climatic conditions experienced during different parts of their life provides evidence for individuals responding differently to prevailing conditions in the winter quarters depending on their age, but not to conditions experienced en route during spring migration.
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ABSTRACT: For migratory birds, early arrival and physical condition on the breeding grounds are important determinants of reproductive success and fitness. Differences in arrival times often exceed a month, and later arriving individuals are often in poorer condition. Habitat-specific isotopic signatures indicate that the quality of winter habitats occupied by American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) determines their physical condition and spring departure dates, which in turn result in variable arrival schedules and condition on temperate breeding grounds. These findings link events in tropical winter grounds with those in temperate breeding areas for a migratory songbird and provide evidence that winter habitats may be limiting.Science 01/1999; 282(5395):1884-6. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The impact of environmental change on animal populations is strongly influenced by the ability of individuals to plastically adjust key life-history events. There is therefore considerable interest in establishing the degree of plasticity in traits and how selection acts on plasticity in natural populations. Breeding time is a key life-history trait that affects fitness and recent studies have found that females vary significantly in their breeding time-environment relationships, with selection often favouring individuals exhibiting stronger plastic responses. In contrast, here, we show that although breeding time in the common guillemot, Uria aalge, is highly plastic at the population level in response to a large-scale environmental cue (the North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO), there is very little between-individual variation-most individuals respond to this climate cue very similarly. We demonstrate strong stabilizing selection against individuals who deviate from the average population-level response to NAO. This species differs significantly from those previously studied in being a colonial breeder, in which reproductive synchrony has a substantial impact on fitness; we suggest that counter selection imposed by a need for synchrony could limit individuals in their response and potential for directional selection to act. This demonstrates the importance of considering the relative costs and benefits of highly plastic responses in assessing the likely response of a population to the environmental change.Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 12/2006; 273(1602):2713-9. · 5.68 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The study of phenotypic plasticity has progressed significantly over the past few decades. We have moved from variation for plasticity being considered as a nuisance in evolutionary studies to it being the primary target of investigations that use an array of methods, including quantitative and molecular genetics, as well as of several approaches that model the evolution of plastic responses. Here, I consider some of the major aspects of research on phenotypic plasticity, assessing where progress has been made and where additional effort is required. I suggest that some areas of research, such the study of the quantitative genetic underpinning of plasticity, have been either settled in broad outline or superseded by new approaches and questions. Other issues, such as the costs of plasticity are currently at the forefront of research in this field, and are likely to be areas of major future development.Trends in Ecology & Evolution 10/2005; 20(9):481-6. · 15.39 Impact Factor