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Movement of foraging Tundra Swans explained by spatial pattern in cryptic food densities

Klaassen, R.H.G. and Nolet, B.A. and Bankert, D. (2006) Movement of foraging Tundra Swans explained by spatial pattern in cryptic food densities. Ecology, 87, 2244–2254-. ISSN 0012-9658.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[2244:MOFTSE]2.0.CO;2

Abstract

We tested whether Tundra Swans use information on the spatial distribution of cryptic food items (belowground Sago pondweed tubers) to shape their movement paths. In a continuous environment, swans create their own food patches by digging craters, which they exploit in several feeding bouts. Series of short (<1 m) intra-patch movements alternate with longer inter-patch movements (>1 m). Tuber biomass densities showed a positive spatial auto-correlation at a short distance (<3 m), but not at a larger distance (3–8 m). Based on the spatial pattern of the food distribution (which is assumed to be pre-harvest information for the swan) and the energy costs and benefits for different food densities at various distances, we calculated the optimal length of an inter-patch movement. A swan that moves to the patch with the highest gain rate was predicted to move to the adjacent patch (at 1 m) if the food density in the current patch had been high (>25 g/m2) and to a more distant patch (at 7–8 m) if the food density in the current patch had been low (<25 g/m2). This prediction was tested by measuring the response of swans to manipulated tuber densities. In accordance with our predictions, swans moved a long distance (>3 m) from a low-density patch and a short distance (<3 m) from a high-density patch. The quantitative agreement between prediction and observation was greater for swans feeding in pairs than for solitary swans. The result of this movement strategy is that swans visit high-density patches at a higher frequency than on offer and, consequently, achieve a 38% higher long-term gain rate. Swans also take advantage of spatial variance in food abundance by regulating the time in patches, staying longer and consuming more food from rich than from poor patches. We can conclude that the shape of the foraging path is a reflection of the spatial pattern in the distribution of tuber densities and can be understood from an optimal foraging perspective.

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:11969
Deposited On:23 Nov 2011 01:00
Last Modified:14 Oct 2013 12:48

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