A climatic regime shift during the mid-1970s in the North Pacific resulted in decreased availability of lipidrich fish to seabirds and was followed by a dramatic decline in number of kittiwakes breeding on the Pribilof Islands. Although production of chicks in the mid-1970s was adequate to sustain kittiwake populations in the early 1980s, the disappearance of birds from breeding colonies apparently exceeded recruitment. No mechanism has been proposed to explain why recruitment would differ among fledglings fed lipid-rich or lipid-poor fish during development. Here we show that diets low in lipids induce nutritional stress and impair cognitive abilities in young red-legged kittiwakes, Rissa brevirostris. Specifically, growth retardation, increased secretion of stress hormones and inferior ability to associate food distribution with visual cues were observed in individuals fed lipid-poor diets. We conclude that lipid-poor diets during development affect the quality of young seabirds, which is likely to result in their increased mortality and low recruitment. ?? 2005 The Royal Society.
Additional Publication Details
A mechanistic link between chick diet and decline in seabirds?
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences