Experience drives innovation of new migration patterns of whooping cranes in response to global change

Nature Communications
By: , and 

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Abstract

Anthropogenic changes in climate and land use are driving changes in migration patterns of birds worldwide. Spatial changes in migration have been related to long-term temperature trends, but the intrinsic mechanisms by which migratory species adapt to environmental change remain largely unexplored. We show that, for a long-lived social species, older birds with more experience are critical for innovating new migration behaviours. Groups containing older, more experienced individuals establish new overwintering sites closer to the breeding grounds, leading to a rapid population-level shift in migration patterns. Furthermore, these new overwintering sites are in areas where changes in climate have increased temperatures and where food availability from agriculture is high, creating favourable conditions for overwintering. Our results reveal that the age structure of populations is critical for the behavioural mechanisms that allow species to adapt to global change, particularly for long-lived animals, where changes in behaviour can occur faster than evolution.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Experience drives innovation of new migration patterns of whooping cranes in response to global change
Series title Nature Communications
DOI 10.1038/ncomms12793
Volume 7
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description Article 12793: 7 p.
First page 1
Last page 7
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