central place forager; compositional analysis; dietary specialization; reproductive consequences; seabird
- van Donk, S., meer
- Camphuysen, K.C.J., meer
- Shamoun-Baranes, J.
- Van der Meer, J., meer
Dietary specialization has been described across a wide range of taxa in the animal kingdom. Fitness consequences are, however, not well documented. We examined the reproductive consequences of different dietary specializations in the herring gull Larus argentatus, an omnivorous seabird, using an extensive dataset which includes breeding and dietary data of 10 successive years. We hypothesized that pairs that focused on prey of higher energetic value would yield higher fledging rates. An alternative hypothesis is that pairs that relied on more resources simultaneously would reproduce better. The novelty of this study is that we used continuous measurements representing dietary composition and degree of specialization rather than restricting our analysis to predefined categories. By relating these two continuous measurements for diet to several proxies for reproductive success, we show clear consequences of dietary choice. Most pairs concentrated on bivalves, a prey type not particularly rich in energy. Pairs feeding on energy-rich prey (e.g., “domestic refuse and fishery discards”) during chick rearing were found to have a higher reproductive success, supporting the first hypothesis. Pairs that used more resources did not clearly have a higher reproductive success. The majority of the pairs did not switch to energy-rich prey during chick rearing, despite low breeding outcome. We discuss how trade-offs between factors such as resource availability, predictability, and the time and energy needed to obtain certain prey species may influence resource selection.