Francesco Bonadonna

French National Centre for Scientific Research, Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France

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Publications (66)231.93 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Group members' individual experience can have important influences when navigating collectively. However, how exactly they structure group travel performance is still not fully understood. This study investigated how navigation and leadership dynamics are affected by the presence of an experienced individual in king penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus, chick pairs. We tested pairs of chicks in which two partners differed in their level of prior navigational experience. Naïve pairs consisted of two chicks that had no previous homing experience. In mixed pairs, one chick was naïve, but the other chick had previous homing experience. Our results showed that in mixed pairs the navigational performance of naïve chicks improved if they travelled together with an experienced partner compared to when they walked alone. Experienced chicks, however, maintained their relatively high speeds and efficiencies irrespective of whether they walked with a partner or independently. We also observed a shift in leadership dynamics: in naïve pairs, both chicks took turns in leading and following, while in mixed pairs, experienced chicks tended to lead throughout. Our work provides a valuable empirical system in which to test theoretical models of leadership and information transfer within groups.
    Animal Behaviour 06/2015; 104. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.03.008
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    ABSTRACT: Norwegian Northern Gannet Morus bassanus populations exhibit contrasting trends on a regional scale, with several colony extinctions having occurred in recent decades. In an attempt to understand the ecological drivers of such variability, we tested whether resource availability is a factor limiting the current development of gannetries in the Lofoten/Vesterålen area. Between 2007 and 2010, we recorded arrival and departure times of breeding Northern Gannets from two colonies from regions showing contrasting population growth rates during the past two decades. We also recorded the duration of joint attendances by Northern Gannet parents at the nest, performed opportunistic diet sampling and counted numbers of occupied nests. Finally, we compiled ring recoveries over a 30-year period to assess inter-colony movements. Norwegian Gannet parents spent more time together, attending their chick, and performed shorter foraging trips than those in British and French colonies of similar size. This suggests that, despite some annual variations, their foraging effort was relatively low. Diet samples from both colonies mainly constituted fish of high energetic value, such as large herring Clupea harengus, mackerel Scomber scombrus, and saithe Pollachius virens, prey that are relatively abundant within the study area. Data from ringed birds revealed a northward movement of adults ringed as breeding birds and chicks from extinct Lofoten colonies that established a growing colony close to the North Cape. Recorded foraging features (trip duration, joint attendance and prey quality) during our study does not indicate food availability as a limiting factor explaining successive extinctions and re-colonisations of breeding sites in Lofoten/Vesterålen. White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla are known to predate opportunistically on Northern Gannet adults or chicks and their populations are growing in the Lofoten area. Their potential impact on the Norwegian Northern Gannet population dynamics should be further investigated.
    Journal of Ornithology 04/2015; 156(2):397-406. DOI:10.1007/s10336-014-1137-6
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    ABSTRACT: Although birds have recently been shown to possess olfactory abilities and to use chemical cues in communication, limited effort has been made to demonstrate the use of odorants in social contexts. Even less is known regarding the use of odorants in species recognition. The ability to recognize conspecifics should be more pronounced in social species. This study investigated the importance of olfactory cues in species recognition in females of two estrildid finch species with different levels of sociality. Combining odor preference tests with chemical analyses, we surveyed whether female zebra finches and diamond firetails are able to distinguish between the species based on volatile traits and whether individuals exhibit species-specific differences in body odorants. Zebra finches are more social than diamond firetails; nevertheless, both species have an overlapping distribution area. Applying an experimental Y-maze paradigm, we showed that zebra finches can use differences in their species odor fingerprints and displayed a significant preference for the odor of conspecifics over that of heterospecifics, whereas diamond firetails did not reveal a preference. Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, we demonstrated that body odorants of the two species were significantly different in relative composition. This finding demonstrates the potential importance of olfactory cues in species recognition, at least in social bird species. Even these two closely related species displayed remarkable differences in their responsiveness to similar chemical cues, which might be caused by species-specific differences in ecology, physiology, or evolution.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 08/2014; 68(11). DOI:10.1007/s00265-014-1791-y
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    ABSTRACT: Conflicts may arise within a moving animal group if its members have different preferred destinations. Many theoretical models suggest that in maintaining group cohesion conflicting preferences can have an overwhelming influence on decision making. However, empirical studies, especially on wild animals, remain limited. Here, we introduce a new study system for investigating collective decision making: king penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus. Their gregarious lifestyle, the colony's organization into subgroups and group travel make king penguins especially interesting for studying collective movements. Chicks spend their first year of life in groups with other chicks (crèches), and if displaced will return to their crèche. We examined how different levels of navigational conflict affect such homing, by comparing the performance of pairs of chicks from the same crèche with pairs from different crèches. The majority of chicks in both treatments travelled at least part of the journey together; when doing so they were more efficient and faster than individuals travelling alone. Chicks took turns in leading and following. Chicks with a common destination (same-crèche pairs) were more precise at homing and less likely to split up than those with a conflict over preferred destinations (different-crèche pairs). Our results support some, but not all, predictions derived from theoretical models.
    Animal Behaviour 07/2014; 93:221–228. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.04.031
  • Samuel P Caro, Jacques Balthazart, Francesco Bonadonna
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    ABSTRACT: This article is part of a Special Issue ("Chemosignals and Reproduction"). Chemical cues were probably the first cues ever used to communicate and are still ubiquitous among living organisms. Birds have long been considered an exception: it was believed that birds were anosmic and relied on their acute visual and acoustic capabilities. Birds are however excellent smellers and use odors in various contexts including food searching, orientation, but also breeding. Successful reproduction in most vertebrates involves the exchange of complex social signals between partners. The first evidence for a role of olfaction in reproductive contexts in birds only dates back to the seventies, when ducks were shown to require a functional sense of smell to express normal sexual behaviors. Nowadays, even if the interest for olfaction in birds has largely increased, the role that bodily odors play in reproduction still remains largely understudied. The few available studies however suggest that olfaction is involved in many reproductive stages. Odors have been shown to influence the choice and synchronization of partners, the choice of nest-building material or the care for the eggs and offspring. How this chemical information is translated at the physiological level mostly remain to be described, although available evidence suggests that, as in mammals, key reproductive brain areas like the medial preoptic nucleus are activated by relevant olfactory signals. Olfaction in birds receives increasing attention and novel findings are continuously published, but many exciting discoveries are still ahead of us, and could make birds one of the animal classes with the largest panel of developed senses ever described.
    Hormones and Behavior 06/2014; 68. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.06.001
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    ABSTRACT: Many procellariiforms use olfactory cues to locate food patches over the seemingly featureless ocean surface. In particular, some of them are able to detect and are attracted by dimethylsulfide (DMS), a volatile compound naturally occurring over worldwide oceans in correspondence with productive feeding areas. However, current knowledge is restricted to sub-Antarctic species, and to only one study realized under natural conditions at sea. Here, for the first time, we investigated the response to DMS in parallel in two different environments in temperate waters, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, employing Cory's (Calonectris borealis) and Scopoli's shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) as models. To test whether these birds can detect and respond to DMS, we presented them with this substance in a Y-maze. Then, to determine if they use this molecule in natural conditions, we tested the response to DMS at sea. The number of birds that chose the DMS in the Y-maze and that were recruited at DMS-scented slicks at sea suggest that these shearwaters are attracted to DMS in both non-foraging and natural contexts. Our findings show that the use of DMS as a foraging cue may be a strategy used by procellariiforms across oceans but that regional differences may exist, giving a worldwide perspective to previous hypotheses concerning the use of DMS as chemical cue.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 02/2014; DOI:10.1242/jeb.097931
  • Samuel P. Caro, Jacques Balthazart, Francesco Bonadonna
    Hormones and Behavior 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Norwegian Northern Gannet Morus bassanus populations exhibit contrasted trends at a regional scale and several colony extinctions occurred in recent decades. In an attempt to understand the ecological drivers of such variability, we tested whether resource availability is a factor limiting the current development of gannetries in the Lofoten/Vesterålen area. Between 2007 and 2010, we recorded arrival and departure times of breeding gannets from two colonies from regions showing contrasting population growth rates during the past two decades. We also recorded the duration of joint attendances by gannet parents at the nest, performed opportunistic diet sampling and counted numbers of occupied nests. Finally, we compiled ring recoveries over a 30-year period to assess inter-colony movements. Norwegian gannet parents spent more time together, attending their chick, and performed shorter foraging trips than those in British and French colonies of similar size. This suggests that, despite some annual variations, their foraging effort was relatively low. Diet samples from both colonies mainly constituted fish of high energetic value, such as large herring Clupea harengus and mackerel Scomber scombrus, and saithe Pollachius virens, prey that are relatively abundant within the study area. Data from ringed birds revealed a northward movement of adults ringed as breeding birds and chicks from extinct Lofoten colonies that established in a growing colony close to the North Cape. Recorded foraging features (trip duration, joint attendance and prey quality) during our study does not indicate food availability as a limiting factor explaining successive extinctions and recolonisations of breeding sites in Lofoten/Vesterålen. White-tailed eagles Haliaeetus albicilla are known to predate opportunistically on Northern Gannet adult or chicks and their populations are growing in the Lofoten area. Their potential impact on the Norwegian Northern Gannet population dynamics should be further investigated.
    Journal of Ornithology 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Dynamic soaring is a small-scale flight manoeuvre which is the basis for the extreme flight performance of albatrosses and other large seabirds to travel huge distances in sustained non-flapping flight. As experimental data with sufficient resolution of th ese small-scale movements are not available, knowledge is lacking about dynamic soaring and the physical mechanism of the energy gain of the bird from the wind. With new in-house developments of GPS logging units for recording raw phase observations and of a dedicated mathematical method for postprocessing these measurements, it was possible to determine the small-scale flight manoeuvre with the required high precision. Experimental results from tracking 16 wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) in the southern Indian Ocean show the characteristic pattern of dynamic soaring. This pattern consists of four flight phases comprising a windward climb, an upper curve, a leeward descent and a lower curve, which are continually repeated. It is shown that the primary energy gain from the shear wind is attained in the upper curve where the bird changes the flight direction from windward to leeward. As a result, the upper curve is the characteristic flight phase of dynamic soaring for achieving the energy gain necessary for sustained non-flapping flight.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 11/2013; 216(Pt 22):4222-32. DOI:10.1242/jeb.085209
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    ABSTRACT: Pelagic birds, which wander in the open sea most of the year and often nest on small remote oceanic islands, are able to pinpoint their breeding colony even within an apparently featureless environment, such as the open ocean. The mechanisms underlying their surprising navigational performance are still unknown. In order to investigate the nature of the cues exploited for oceanic navigation, Cory's shearwaters, Calonectris borealis, nesting in the Azores were displaced and released in open ocean at about 800 km from their colony, after being subjected to sensory manipulation. While magnetically disturbed shearwaters showed unaltered navigational performance and behaved similarly to unmanipulated control birds, the shearwaters deprived of their sense of smell were dramatically impaired in orientation and homing. Our data show that seabirds use olfactory cues not only to find their food but also to navigate over vast distances in the ocean.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 08/2013; 216(Pt 15):2798-2805. DOI:10.1242/jeb.085738
  • BEHAVIOUR2013 - International Ethological Conference & Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Newcastle, UK; 08/2013
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    ABSTRACT: Darwin devised sexual selection theory to explain sexual dimorphisms. Further developments of the theory identified the operational sex-ratio (OSR) as one of its cornerstones, and it was commonly admitted that an OSR biased toward one sex would lead to stronger selection pressures toward that sex. Recent theoretical developments have challenged this view and showed that the OSR alone does not determine the direction of sexual selection, more particularly in mutually ornamented species exhibiting high and similar parental investment by both sexes. These developments, however, focused on mutual intersexual selection, and little is known about intrasexual selection of both males and females in species exhibiting such characteristics. The first aim of our study was to test the relative involvement of males and females in same-sex contest over mates in the king penguin, a species exhibiting mutual ornamentation of the sexes, high parental investment by both sexes, and a male-biased OSR. We investigated the sex composition of trio parades, which are groups of three individuals that compete for mates during pair formation. We found that these trios consist of a female trailed by two fighting males in 19 of 20 cases; the 20th trio was all male. The second aim of our study was to investigate the existence of within-sex differences in colour ornaments between individuals involved in such trios and individuals already paired. While limited sample sizes precluded detection of statistically significant differences between trios vs. pairs, reflectance measurements suggested that the beak spot of males in trios were more strongly ultraviolet than the beak spot of males in pairs. We concluded that intrasexual selection in our colony follows the typical pattern of mate competition observed in species in which sexual dimorphisms and OSR are male biased, and discussed the ultraviolet difference within the framework of the king penguins' colour perception.
    Ethology 05/2013; 119(5-5):389-396. DOI:10.1111/eth.12076
  • Gaia Dell'Ariccia, Francesco Bonadonna
    Royal Institute for Navigation. RIN13, Egham, UK; 04/2013
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    Gaia Dell'ariccia, Francesco Bonadonna
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    ABSTRACT: Olfactory cues have been shown to be important to homing petrels at night, but apparently those procellariiform species that also come back to the colony during the day are not impaired by smell deprivation. However, the nycthemeral distribution of homing, i.e. whether displaced birds released at night return to their burrow by night or during daylight, has never been investigated. To explore this question, we studied the homing behaviour of Cory's shearwater (Calonectris borealis) in the only known population where these birds are active at the colony both during the day and the night. Here, we compared the nocturnal versus diurnal homing schedule of birds treated with zinc sulphate to induce a reversible but complete anosmia, to that of controls. Our results show that anosmic shearwaters were unable to home in the dark and were constrained to wait for the daylight to find their burrow again. Our results confirm that olfaction is the basic sensory input for homing by night even in a petrel species that is diurnally active at the colony.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 01/2013; 216(8). DOI:10.1242/jeb.082826
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    ABSTRACT: King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) live in large and densely populated colonies, where navigation can be challenging due to the presence of many conspecifics that could obstruct locally available cues. Our previous experiments demonstrated that visual cues were important but not essential for king penguin chicks' homing. The main objective of this study was to investigate the importance of non-visual cues, such as magnetic and acoustic cues, for chicks' orientation and short-range navigation. In a series of experiments, the chicks were individually displaced from the colony to an experimental arena where they were released under different conditions. In the magnetic experiments, a strong magnet was attached to the chicks' heads. Trials were conducted in daylight and at night to test the relative importance of visual and magnetic cues. Our results showed that when the geomagnetic field around chicks was modified, their orientation in the arena and the overall ability to home was not affected. In the low sound experiment we limited the acoustic cues available to the chicks by putting ear pads over their ears, and in the loud sound experiment we provided additional acoustic cues by broadcasting colony sounds on the opposite side of the arena to the real colony. In the low sound experiment, the behavior of the chicks was not affected by the limited sound input. In the loud sound experiment, the chicks reacted strongly to the colony sound. These results suggest that king penguin chicks may use the sound of the colony while orienting towards their home.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 01/2013; 216(8). DOI:10.1242/jeb.075564
  • Francesco Bonadonna, Jerome Mardon
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    ABSTRACT: Odours are broadly used for individual, sexual and species recognition in vertebrates and may be reliable signals of quality and compatibility. Yet, chemical signals in birds have rarely been investigated. In fact, birds exhibit a wide array of communication mechanisms (e.g. colours and calls) but rarely display obvious olfactory-driven behaviours. This is probably why, despite three decades of physiological and behavioural studies establishing the existence of avian olfactory functions, chemical communication has been essentially ignored. In spite of the fact that pheromones have never been highlighted in birds, several species produce characteristic scents that may have a social function. For example, odours seem to contribute to the courtship behaviours of ducks and chickens. In crested auklets, a characteristic citrus odour may act as a sexual olfactory ornament broadcasting resistance to ectoparasites. Eventually, it was shown that zebra finches (a passerine bird with a very small olfactory apparatus) display olfactory-driven behaviours. Petrel seabirds are probably the most striking case-study, since findings relating to many aspects of petrels’ ecology including homing, recognition, mate choice and even interspecific competition for nesting sites, provide a comprehensive evidence for avian chemical communication. Some burrowing petrels use the odour of their mate to recognise their own nest and, interestingly, prefer the odour of a conspecific to their own. Using chemical analytical methods, it has been demonstrated that the preen secretions of these birds contain social information including species, sex and identity (i.e. a chemical signature). Results further show that some of this information is still present on the plumage and in the airborne volatiles emitted by birds. Recent results also show that “detective mice” (i.e. biological olfactometers) can identify similarities in individual kin-related petrel odours. Also, one species of storm petrel has been shown to recognise and avoid kin-related conspecifics in choice experiments. Together, these results, almost 50 years after the first works on avian olfaction, indicate that chemical signals can contribute, as well as colours, calls and songs, to avian social behaviours; a realisation that has important implications for behavioural processes such as individual recognition and/or mate choice.
    Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 12, 01/2013: pages 325-339; , ISBN: 978-1-4614-5926-2
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    ABSTRACT: The survival of marine predators depends on behavioural plasticity to cope with changes in prey distribution. Variability in behaviour might predict plasticity and is easier to assess than plasticity. Using miniaturized GPS loggers over several breeding seasons in two Norwegian Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) colonies, we investigated if and how the variability within and between individuals, but also between colonies and years, affected foraging strategies. Results revealed strong individual variability (foraging trip durations, foraging effort and different foraging areas). Individuals from both colonies showed preferred commuting routes, flight bearings and feeding hotspots. Individuals from the largest colony used larger and more foraging areas than individuals from the small colony. Feeding hotspots and foraging ranges varied amongst years in the largest colony only. Our study demonstrated that gannets show flexibility by changing prey fields that are driven by shifting oceanographic conditions.
    Marine Biology 12/2012; 159(12):2743-2756. DOI:10.1007/s00227-012-2035-1
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    ABSTRACT: Mate choice for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) compatibility has been found in several taxa, although rarely in birds. MHC is a crucial component in adaptive immunity and by choosing an MHC-dissimilar partner, heterozygosity and potentially broad pathogen resistance is maximized in the offspring. The MHC genotype influences odour cues and preferences in mammals and fish and hence olfactory-based mate choice can occur. We tested whether blue petrels, Halobaena caerulea, choose partners based on MHC compatibility. This bird is long-lived, monogamous and can discriminate between individual odours using olfaction, which makes it exceptionally well suited for this analysis. We screened MHC class I and II B alleles in blue petrels using 454-pyrosequencing and quantified the phylogenetic, functional and allele-sharing similarity between individuals. Partners were functionally more dissimilar at the MHC class II B loci than expected from random mating (p = 0.033), whereas there was no such difference at the MHC class I loci. Phylogenetic and non-sequence-based MHC allele-sharing measures detected no MHC dissimilarity between partners for either MHC class I or II B. Our study provides evidence of mate choice for MHC compatibility in a bird with a high dependency on odour cues, suggesting that MHC odour-mediated mate choice occurs in birds.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 09/2012; 279(1746):4457-4463. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.1562
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    ABSTRACT: ALBATROSSES DO SOMETHING THAT NO OTHER BIRDS ARE ABLE TO DO: fly thousands of kilometres at no mechanical cost. This is possible because they use dynamic soaring, a flight mode that enables them to gain the energy required for flying from wind. Until now, the physical mechanisms of the energy gain in terms of the energy transfer from the wind to the bird were mostly unknown. Here we show that the energy gain is achieved by a dynamic flight manoeuvre consisting of a continually repeated up-down curve with optimal adjustment to the wind. We determined the energy obtained from the wind by analysing the measured trajectories of free flying birds using a new GPS-signal tracking method yielding a high precision. Our results reveal an evolutionary adaptation to an extreme environment, and may support recent biologically inspired research on robotic aircraft that might utilize albatrosses' flight technique for engineless propulsion.
    PLoS ONE 09/2012; 7(9):e41449. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0041449
  • Francesco Bonadonna, Ana Sanz-Aguilar
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    ABSTRACT: Identification of family members plays a primary role in the evolution of social behaviours such as nepotism, altruism and mate choice. The process is particularly important for philopatric species in which the encounter rate of kin-related conspecifics is high. Olfactory-based recognition of individual kin has been identified in most species, with the exception of birds; historically, birds were thought to have poor olfactory abilities, so the use of olfactory cues was ruled out a priori. Here, we show that European storm petrels, Hydrobates pelagicus, are able to distinguish kin from nonkin odours. Using special cotton swabs, like those used in forensic police procedures, we offered birds a binary choice in a Y-maze. Birds significantly preferred odours of unrelated individuals. Olfactory imprinting on a 'family olfactory template' or self-referent phenotype matching may be the mechanism underlying this effect. This choice behaviour may allow these highly philopatric birds to avoid inbreeding and select an appropriate mate. Our results suggest that sophisticated olfactory communication is relevant in birds, and leads to important behavioural traits such as philopatry. (c) 2012 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Animal Behaviour 09/2012; 84(3):509–513. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.06.014

Publication Stats

1k Citations
231.93 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2002–2014
    • French National Centre for Scientific Research
      • Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2004–2013
    • Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive
      Montpelhièr, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
  • 1997–2009
    • Università di Pisa
      • Department of Biology
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
  • 2003–2006
    • University of California, Davis
      • • Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
      • • Department of Neurology
      Davis, California, United States
  • 1996
    • National Research Council
      Oristany, Sardinia, Italy