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Oecologia. 2006 Jan;146(4):681-91. Epub 2005 Sep 30.

Sex-specific foraging behaviour in a seabird with reversed sexual dimorphism: the red-footed booby.

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IRD, Centre de la RĂ©union, UR 109 Thetis, BP 172, 97492, Sainte Clotilde, Ile de la RĂ©union, France.


Most hypotheses attempting to explain the evolution of reversed sexual dimorphism (RSD) assume that size-related differences in foraging ability are of prime importance, but the studies on sex-specific differences in foraging behaviour remain scarce. We compare the foraging behaviour of males and females in a seabird species with a RSD by using several miniaturised activity and telemetry loggers. In red-footed boobies males are 5% smaller and 15% lighter than females, but have a longer tail than females. Both sexes spend similar time on the nest while incubating or brooding. When foraging at sea, males and females spend similar time foraging in oceanic waters, forage in similar areas, spend similar proportion of their foraging trip in flight, and feed on similar prey-flying fishes and flying squids-of similar size. However, compared to males, females range farther during incubation (85 km vs. 50 km), and furthermore feed mostly at the extremity of their foraging trip, whereas males actively forage throughout the trip. Males are much more active than females, landing and diving more often. During the study period, males lost mass, whereas females showed no significant changes. These results indicate that males and females of the red-footed boobies differ in several aspects in their foraging behaviour. Although some differences found in the study may be the direct result of the larger size of females, that is, the slightly higher speeds and deeper depths attained by females, others indicate clearly different foraging strategies between the sexes. The smaller size and longer tail of males confer them a higher agility, and could allow them to occupy a foraging niche different from that of females. The higher foraging effort of males related to its different foraging strategy is probably at the origin of the rapid mass loss of males during the breeding period. These results suggest that foraging differences are probably the reason for the differential breeding investment observed in boobies, and are likely to be involved in the evolution and maintenance of RSD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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