Adjustment of the annual cycle to climatic change in a long-lived migratory bird species
A. P. MØLLER, E. FLENSTED-JENSEN, W. MARDAL
L a b o r a t o i r e d e P a r a s i t o l o g i e E v o l u t i v e , C N R S U M R 7 1 0 3 , U n i v e r s i t é P i e r r e e t M a r i e C u r i e , F r a n c e
Climate change has advanced the phenology of many organisms. Migratory animals face particular problems because climate change in the breeding and the wintering range may be asynchronous, preventing rapid response to changing conditions. Advancement in timing of spring migration may have carry-over effects to other parts of the annual cycle, simply because advancement of one event in the annual cycle also advances subsequent events, gradually causing a general shift in the timing of the entire annual cycle. Such a phenotypic shift could generate accumulating effects over the years for individuals, but also across generations. Here we test this novel hypothesis of phenotypic response to climate change by using long-term data on the Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea. Mean breeding date advanced by almost three weeks during the last 70 years. Annual arrival date at the breeding grounds during a period of 47 years was predicted by environmental conditions in the winter quarters in the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic and by mean breeding date the previous year. Annual mean breeding date was only marginally determined by timing of arrival the current year, but to a larger extent by arrival date and breeding date the previous year. Learning affected arrival date as shown by a positive correlation between arrival date in year (i + 1) relative to breeding date in year (i) and the selective advantage of early breeding in year (i). This provides a mechanism for changes in arrival date being adjusted to changing environmental conditions. This study suggests that adaptation to changing climatic conditions can be achieved through learning from year to year [Current Zoology 55(2):92–101, 2009].