Central-place foragers can be constrained by the distance between habitats. When an organism relies on a central place for thermal refuge, the distance to food resources can potentially constrain foraging behavior. We investigated the effect of distance between thermal refuges and forage patches of the cold-intolerant marine mammal, the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), on foraging duration. We tested the alternative hypotheses of time minimization and energy maximization as a response to distance between habitats. We also determined if manatees mitigate foraging constraints with increased visits to closer thermal refuges. We used hidden Markov models to assign discrete behaviors from movement parameters as a function of water temperature and assessed the influence of distance on foraging duration in water temperatures above (> 20°C) and below (≤ 20°C) the lower critical limit of the thermoneutral zone of manatees. We found that with increased distance, manatees decreased foraging duration in cold water temperature and increased foraging duration in warmer temperatures. We also found that manatees returned to closer thermal refuges more often. Our results suggest that the spatial relationship of thermal and forage habitats can impact behavioral decisions regarding foraging. Addressing foraging behavior questions while considering thermoregulatory behavior implicates the importance of understanding changing environments on animal behavior, particularly in the face of current global change.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Traveling to thermal refuges during stressful temperatures leads to foraging constraints in a central-place forager|
|Series title||Journal of Mammalogy|
|Publisher||Oxford University Press|
|Contributing office(s)||National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|