Principal Investigator : Henri Weimerskirch
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web site : www.seabirdproject.cx
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From Fledging to recruitment: early life demography of long-lived seabirds
To date, early life demographic traits are poorly studied compare to adult in the vast majority of animal species. Yet, the integration of all life stages is necessary to fully understand the demographic processes. Indeed, due to ecological and evolutionary reasons, life history traits and their sensitivity to environmental fluctuations can differ largely between life stages. This lack of knowledge toward early life stage is particularly detrimental for long lived species. For these species, immature component represent a substantial part of the total reproductive value, having a high influence on the whole population dynamics. Hence, such limitations affect the accuracy of population projections in the context of global change and more generally our understanding of life history trait evolution.
My PhD project aims at investigating early life demographic traits in two albatross species: the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans and the black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris. In these two long-lived species, the immature period is particularly long lasting around 9-10 years. Based on long-term longitudinal individual monitoring, I investigate the respective effects of extrinsic (e.g. climate, fisheries) and intrinsic factors (e.g. density dependence, parental effects) on the early life demographic traits. I am also interested in long term fitness effects of natal conditions and more generally by factors driving demographic heterogeneity within a population and their consequences on evolutionary process and current population dynamics.
Sophie de Grissac
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The early life ecology of albatrosses : learn to survive
My PhD, as part of the Early Life program, focuses on the first year at sea of juvenile albatrosses. Young wandering albatrosses leave their nest in total independence after 9 months of parental care. They fly, alone from the first day, in the great southern ocean where environmental conditions are harsh, dealing with the strongest winds on earth and high resources heterogeneity. We know that the first months, and particularly the first 3 months, are the most critical for their survival. With this study we aim to learn how juvenile albatrosses behave at sea, how do they learn to survive, to improve their foraging capacities and what part of their behavior is possibly innate or acquired by experience. Their learning rate is the key to their survival and thus, to their future reproductive success. Understanding the mechanisms underlying juvenile strategies is fundamental to understand the whole population dynamics and be able to predict their fate in a more than ever rapidly changing world.
To be able to answer those questions I equipped 10 juveniles of wandering albatrosses in the colony of Crozet Island with Argos/GPS devices that allowed us to track them at sea for up to 11 months. There immaturity period will be very long since they will stay at sea for, at least, the 3 following years before coming back to or close to their natal ground in order to start their adult life and prepare to breed. They will start to reproduce at around 6 to 10 years old.
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The early life of penguins and elephants seals: learning to dive in the deep ocean.
Until now the juvenile phase of seabirds and marine mammals was poorly understood because of the difficulty to track them after their independence and during their first at sea years. This especially concerns the oceanic species which may distribute over huge distances from their colonies, especially in the southern ocean. As a part of the Early Life project, my PhD focuses on the first at-sea year of the juveniles of three marine predators: the Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), the King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and the Elephant seal (Mirounga leonina).
Through the use of a new generation of Argos tags, we have been able to collect tracking and diving data in real time, for each species and during almost one year. Each species has been tagged in a specific location. Thus the Emperor and King penguins have been tagged in Terre Adélie (Antarctica) and in the Possession Island (Crozet archipelago), respectively, and the Elephants seals have been tagged at the Kerguelen archipelago.
The aim of this thesis is to understand how the juveniles disperse and learn diving and attain foraging skills after their fledging, which is the most critical part of their life. The main questions addressed are as following: do juveniles improve foraging skills to attain adults’ skills and at which rate? Are there already some individuals who are rapidly able to survive? Which habitats and environmental factors influence the individuals’ dispersion and foraging skills?
Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé
Station d’Écologie de Chizé-La Rochelle
CNRS UMR 7372
Website CEBC : http://www.cebc.cnrs.fr/