Within-pair similarity in migration route and female winter foraging effort predict pair breeding performance in a monogamous seabird
Fayet AL., Shoji A., Freeman R., Perrins CM., Guilford T.
© Inter-Research 2017 www.int-res.com. In long-lived monogamous animals, pair bond strength and durability are usually associated with higher fitness. However, whether pairs maximise fitness during the non-breeding season by maintaining contact during the winter or, instead, prioritise individual condition is unclear. Using geolocators recording spatial (light) and behavioural (immersion) data, we tracked pairs of the long-term monogamous Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica during the non-breeding season to determine whether and how migratory strategies were related to future pair breeding performance and whether within-pair similarity in migratory movements or individual behaviour best predicted future fitness. While pair members migrated separately, their routes were similar in the first part of the non-breeding season but diverged later on; nonetheless, pairs showed synchrony in their return to the breeding colony in spring. Pairs following more similar routes bred earlier and had a higher breeding success the following spring. However, female (but not male) winter foraging effort was also a strong predictor of subsequent fitness, being associated with future timing of breeding and reproductive success. Overall, females had higher daily energy expenditure than males, especially in the late winter when their route diverged from their partner's and they foraged more than males. Our study reveals that female winter foraging, probably linked to pre-breeding condition, may be more critical for fitness than maintaining the pair bond outside of the breeding season. However, even without contact between mates, pairs can benefit from following similar migration routes and synchronise their returns, but the mechanisms linking these processes remain unclear.