Animal movement in the absence of predation: environmental drivers of movement strategies in a partial migration system

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Animal movement strategies including migration, dispersal, nomadism, and residency are shaped by broad-scale spatial-temporal structuring of the environment, including factors such as the degrees of spatial variation, seasonality and inter-annual predictability. Animal movement strategies, in turn, interact with the characteristics of individuals and the local distribution of resources to determine local patterns of resource selection with complex and poorly understood implications for animal fitness. Here we present a multi-scale investigation of animal movement strategies and resource selection. We consider the degree to which spatial variation, seasonality, and inter-annual predictability in resources drive migration patterns among different taxa and how movement strategies in turn shape local resource selection patterns. We focus on adult Galapagos giant tortoises Chelonoidis spp. as a model system since they display many movement strategies and evolved in the absence of predators of adults. Specifically, our analysis is based on 63 individuals among four taxa tracked on three islands over six years and almost 106 tortoise re-locations. Tortoises displayed a continuum of movement strategies from migration to sedentarism that were linked to the spatio-temporal scale and predictability of resource distributions. Movement strategies shaped patterns of resource selection. Specifically, migratory individuals displayed stronger selection toward areas where resources were more predictable among years than did non-migratory individuals, which indicates a selective advantage for migrants in seasonally structured, more predictable environments. Our analytical framework combines large-scale predictions for movement strategies, based on environmental structuring, with finer-scale analysis of space-use. Integrating different organizational levels of analysis provides a deeper understanding of the eco-evolutionary dynamics at play in the emergence and maintenance of migration and the critical role of resource predictability. Our results highlight that assessing the potential benefits of differential behavioral responses first requires an understanding of the interactions among movement strategies, resource selection and individual characteristics.




Bastille-Rousseau, G., Gibbs, J. P., Yackulic, C. B., Frair, J. L., Cabrera, F., Rousseau, L. P., … Blake, S. (2017). Animal movement in the absence of predation: environmental drivers of movement strategies in a partial migration system. Oikos, 126(7), 1004–1019.

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