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Concept: Albatross


More than 18 million seabirds nest on 58 Pacific islands protected within vast U.S. Marine National Monuments (1.9 million km2). However, most of these seabird colonies are on low-elevation islands and sea-level rise (SLR) and accompanying high-water perturbations are predicted to escalate with climate change. To understand how SLR may impact protected islands and insular biodiversity, we modeled inundation and wave-driven flooding of a globally important seabird rookery in the subtropical Pacific. We acquired new high-resolution Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) and used the Delft3D wave model and ArcGIS to model wave heights and inundation for a range of SLR scenarios (+0.5, +1.0, +1.5, and +2.0 m) at Midway Atoll. Next, we classified vegetation to delineate habitat exposure to inundation and identified how breeding phenology, colony synchrony, and life history traits affect species-specific sensitivity. We identified 3 of 13 species as highly vulnerable to SLR in the Hawaiian Islands and quantified their atoll-wide distribution (Laysan albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis; black-footed albatross, P. nigripes; and Bonin petrel, Pterodroma hypoleuca). Our models of wave-driven flooding forecast nest losses up to 10% greater than passive inundation models at +1.0 m SLR. At projections of + 2.0 m SLR, approximately 60% of albatross and 44% of Bonin petrel nests were overwashed displacing more than 616,400 breeding albatrosses and petrels. Habitat loss due to passive SLR may decrease the carrying capacity of some islands to support seabird colonies, while sudden high-water events directly reduce survival and reproduction. This is the first study to simulate wave-driven flooding and the combined impacts of SLR, groundwater rise, and storm waves on seabird colonies. Our results highlight the need for early climate change planning and restoration of higher elevation seabird refugia to prevent low-lying protected islands from becoming ecological traps in the face of rising sea levels.

Concepts: Albatross, Seabird, Procellariiformes, Gadfly petrel, Laysan Albatross, Laysan, Midway Atoll, French Frigate Shoals


Migration is a common strategy used by birds that breed in seasonal environments. Selection for greater migration efficiency is likely to be stronger for terrestrial species whose migration strategies require non-stop transoceanic crossings. If multiple species use the same transoceanic flyway, then we expect the migration strategies of these species to converge geographically towards the most optimal solution. We test this by examining population-level migration trajectories within the Western Hemisphere for 118 migratory species using occurrence information from eBird. Geographical convergence of migration strategies was evident within specific terrestrial regions where geomorphological features such as mountains or isthmuses constrained overland migration. Convergence was also evident for transoceanic migrants that crossed the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. Here, annual population-level movements were characterized by clockwise looped trajectories, which resulted in faster but more circuitous journeys in the spring and more direct journeys in the autumn. These findings suggest that the unique constraints and requirements associated with transoceanic migration have promoted the spatial convergence of migration strategies. The combination of seasonal atmospheric and environmental conditions that has facilitated the use of similar broad-scale migration strategies may be especially prone to disruption under climate and land-use change.

Concepts: Earth, Geography, Atlantic Ocean, Albatross, Human migration, Gulf of Mexico, Northern Hemisphere, Gulf Stream


Reductions in global fishing pressure are needed to end overfishing of target species and maximize the value of fisheries. We ask whether such reductions would also be sufficient to protect non-target species threatened as bycatch. We compare changes in fishing pressure needed to maximize profits from 4713 target fish stocks-accounting for >75% of global catch-to changes in fishing pressure needed to reverse ongoing declines of 20 marine mammal, sea turtle, and seabird populations threatened as bycatch. We project that maximizing fishery profits would halt or reverse declines of approximately half of these threatened populations. Recovering the other populations would require substantially greater effort reductions or targeting improvements. Improving commercial fishery management could thus yield important collateral benefits for threatened bycatch species globally.

Concepts: Reptile, Mammal, Albatross, Overfishing, Whale, Fisheries management, Wild fisheries, Fishery


Seabird aggregations at sea have been shown to be associated with concentrations of prey. Previous research identified Central California as a highly used foraging area for seabirds, with locally breeding seabirds foraging close to their colonies on Southeast Farallon Island. Herein, we focus on nonresident (i.e. non-locally breeding) seabird species off of Central California. We hypothesized that high-use foraging areas for nonresident seabirds would be influenced by oceanographic and bathymetric factors and that spatial and temporal distributions would be similar within planktivorous and generalist foraging guilds but would differ between them. With data collected by the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) partnership during cruises between April and October from 2004-2013, we developed generalized linear models to identify high-use foraging areas for each of six nonresident seabird species. The four generalist species are Phoebastria nigripes (black-footed albatross), Ardenna griseus (sooty shearwater), Ardenna creatopus (pink-footed shearwater), and Fulmarus glacialis (northern fulmar). The two planktivorous species are Phalaropus lobatus (red-necked phalarope) and Phalaropus fulicarius (red phalarope). Sea surface temperature was significant for generalist species and sea surface salinity was important for planktivorous species. The distance to the 200-m isobath was significant in five of six models, Pacific Decadal Oscillation with a 3-month lag in four models, and sea surface fluorescence, the distance to Cordell Bank, and depth in three models. We did not find statistically significant differences between distributions of individual seabird species within a foraging guild or between guilds, with the exception of the sooty shearwater. Model results for a multi-use seabird foraging area highlighted the continental shelf break, particularly within the vicinity of Cordell Bank, as the highest use areas as did Marxan prioritization. Our research methods can be implemented elsewhere to identify critical habitat that needs protection as human development pressures continue to expand to the ocean.

Concepts: Albatross, Seabird, Birds of Europe, Procellariiformes, Puffinus, Procellariidae, Fulmar, Phalarope


Many animals partition resources to avoid competition, and in colonially-breeding species this often leads to divergent space or habitat use. During the non-breeding season, foraging constraints are relaxed, yet the patterns and drivers of segregation both between and within populations are poorly understood. We modelled habitat preference to examine how extrinsic (habitat availability and intra-specific competition) and intrinsic factors (population, sex and breeding outcome) influence the distributions of non-breeding grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma tracked from two major populations, South Georgia (Atlantic Ocean) and the Prince Edward Islands (Indian Ocean). Spatial segregation was greater than expected, reflecting distinct seasonal differences in habitat selection and accessibility, and avoidance of intra-specific competition with local breeders. Previously failed birds segregated spatially from successful birds during summer, when they used less productive waters, suggesting a link between breeding outcome and subsequent habitat selection. In contrast, we found weak evidence of sexual segregation, which did not reflect a difference in habitat use. Our results indicate that the large-scale spatial structuring of albatross distributions results from interactions between extrinsic and intrinsic factors, with important implications for population dynamics. As habitat preferences differed substantially between colonies, populations should be considered independently when identifying critical areas for protection.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Albatross, Indian Ocean, Motivation, Antarctica, Mollymawk, Grey-headed Albatross


Wind conditions strongly affect migratory costs and shape flyways and detours for many birds, especially soaring birds. However, whether winds also influence individual variability in migratory choices is an unexplored question. Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) exhibit migratory flexibility, changing non-breeding destination across the Atlantic Ocean within and between years. Here, we investigated how wind dynamics affect the spatiotemporal migratory behaviour and whether they influence individual choices of non-breeding destination. We analysed 168 GLS tracks of migratory Cory’s shearwaters over five years in relation to concurrent wind data. We found no evidence for an association of the use of specific paths or destinations with particular wind conditions. Our results suggest that shearwaters deliberately choose their non-breeding destination, even when the choice entails longer distances and higher energetic costs for displacement due to unfavourable wind conditions en route. Favourable winds trigger migration only when directed towards specific areas but not to others. Despite their dependence on wind for dynamic soaring, Cory’s shearwaters show a high individuality in migratory behaviour that cannot be explained by individual birds encountering different meteorological conditions at departure or during migratory movements.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Albatross, Seabird, Ocean, Tropical cyclone, Wind, Trade wind, Soaring


While personality differences in animals are defined as consistent behavioural variation between individuals, the widely studied field of foraging specialisation in marine vertebrates has rarely been addressed within this framework. However there is much overlap between the two fields, both aiming to measure the causes and consequences of consistent individual behaviour. Here for the first time we use both a classic measure of personality, the response to a novel object, and an estimate of foraging strategy, derived from GPS data, to examine individual personality differences in black browed albatross and their consequences for fitness. First, we examine the repeatability of personality scores and link these to variation in foraging habitat. Bolder individuals forage nearer the colony, in shallower regions, whereas shyer birds travel further from the colony, and fed in deeper oceanic waters. Interestingly, neither personality score predicted a bird’s overlap with fisheries. Second, we show that both personality scores are correlated with fitness consequences, dependent on sex and year quality. Our data suggest that shyer males and bolder females have higher fitness, but the strength of this relationship depends on year quality. Females who forage further from the colony have higher breeding success in poor quality years, whereas males foraging close to the colony always have higher fitness. Together these results highlight the potential importance of personality variation in seabirds and that the fitness consequences of boldness and foraging strategy may be highly sex dependent.

Concepts: Male, Evolution, Female, Bird, Sex, Albatross, Seabird, Gamete


Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is a zoonotic virus transmitted by Hyalomma ticks, the immature stages of which may be carried by migratory birds. In this study, a total of 12 Hyalomma ticks were recovered from five of 228 migratory birds trapped in Spring, 2012 in southern Spain along the East Atlantic flyway. All collected ticks tested negative for CCHFV. While most birds had zero Hyalomma ticks, two individuals had four and five ticks each and the statistical distribution of Hyalomma tick counts per bird is over-dispersed compared to the Poisson distribution, demonstrating the need for intensive sampling studies to avoid underestimating the total number of ticks. Rates of tick exchange on migratory birds during their northwards migration will affect the probability that a Hyalomma tick entering Great Britain is positive for CCHFV. Drawing on published data, evidence is presented that the latitude of a European country affects the probability of entry of Hyalomma ticks on wild birds. Further data on Hyalomma infestation rates and tick exchange rates are required along the East Atlantic flyway to further our understanding of the origin of Hyalomma ticks (i.e., Africa or southern Europe) and hence the probability of entry of CCHFV into GB.

Concepts: Bird, United Kingdom, Europe, Cuckoo, Albatross, Western Europe, Duck, Bird migration


The highly organized morphogenesis of bird feathers holds important phylo- and ontogenetic information on the evolution of birds, organogenesis, tissue regeneration, and the health status of individual animals. Altered topobiological patterns are regularly used as retrospective evidence for disturbed developmental trajectories due to the past exposure to environmental stressors. Using the most advanced high-resolution (5-70 µm) X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM), we describe in the feathers from three species of Procellariiformes hitherto unknown, depositions of elements (Zn, Ca, Br, Cu, Fe) that are independent of pigmentation or any underlying variation in density or polymer structure. In the case of Zn, the pattern across several species of Procellariiformes, but not other species, consisted of highly regular bands of Zn numbering 30-32, which may reflect the estimated number of days of active feather growth or the duration of the moult period. Thus, speculatively, the highly consistent Zn pattern might be the result of a so far unknown diurnal systemic regulation rather than local heterogeneity amongst the follicular stem cells.

Concepts: Protein, Mathematics, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Bird, Chemical element, Albatross, Feather


Migratory behavior, routes and zones used during the non-breeding season are assumed to have been selected to maximize fitness, and can lead to genetic differentiation. Yet, here we show that migration strategies differ markedly between and within two genetically similar populations of wandering albatross Diomedea exulans from the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos in the Indian Ocean. Wandering albatrosses usually breed biennially if successful, and during the sabbatical year, all birds from Kerguelen migrate to the Pacific Ocean, whereas most from Crozet are sedentary. Instead of taking the shortest routes, which would involve a return against headwinds, migratory birds fly with the westerly winds, requiring detours of 10,000 s km. In total, migrants circumnavigate Antarctica 2 to 3 times, covering more than 120,000 km in a single sabbatical year. Our results indicate strong links between migratory behavior and fitness; all birds from Kerguelen breed biennially, whereas a significant proportion of those from Crozet, especially females, are sedentary and breed in consecutive calendar years. To breed annually, these females temporarily change mate, but return to their original partner in the following year. This extreme variation in migratory behavior has important consequences in term of life history evolution and susceptibility to climate change and fisheries.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Albatross, Seabird, Pacific Ocean, Antarctica, Procellariiformes, Great albatross, Wandering Albatross