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Seasonality impacts collective movements in a wild group-living bird

  • Papageorgiou, Danai1, 2, 2, 3, 4
  • Rozen-Rechels, David1, 2, 2, 3
  • Nyaguthii, Brendah5, 6, 7
  • Farine, Damien R.1, 2, 3, 7
  • 1 Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Universitätsstraße 10, Constance, 78457, Germany , Constance (Germany)
  • 2 University of Konstanz, Universitätsstraße 10, Constance, 78457, Germany , Constance (Germany)
  • 3 University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, Zurich, 8057, Switzerland , Zurich (Switzerland)
  • 4 Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi, Kenya , Nairobi (Kenya)
  • 5 University of Eldoret, Eldoret, 1125-30100, Kenya , Eldoret (Kenya)
  • 6 Mpala Research Center, Nanyuki, 10400, Kenya , Nanyuki (Kenya)
  • 7 National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya , Nairobi (Kenya)
Published Article
Movement Ecology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jul 08, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s40462-021-00271-9
Springer Nature
  • Research


BackgroundA challenge faced by animals living in groups with stable long-term membership is to effectively coordinate their actions and maintain cohesion. However, as seasonal conditions alter the distribution of resources across a landscape, they can change the priority of group members and require groups to adapt and respond collectively across changing contexts. Little is known about how stable group-living animals collectively modify their movement behaviour in response to environment changes, such as those induced by seasonality. Further, it remains unclear how environment-induced changes in group-level movement behaviours might scale up to affect population-level properties, such as a population’s footprint.MethodsHere we studied the collective movement of each distinct social group in a population of vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum), a largely terrestrial and non-territorial bird. We used high-resolution GPS tracking of group members over 22 months, combined with continuous time movement models, to capture how and where groups moved under varying conditions, driven by seasonality and drought.ResultsGroups used larger areas, travelled longer distances, and moved to new places more often during drier seasons, causing a three-fold increase in the area used at the population level when conditions turned to drought. By contrast, groups used smaller areas with more regular movements during wetter seasons.ConclusionsThe consistent changes in collective outcomes we observed in response to different environments raise questions about the role of collective behaviour in facilitating, or impeding, the capacity for individuals to respond to novel environmental conditions. As droughts will be occurring more often under climate change, some group living animals may have to respond to them by expressing dramatic shifts in their regular movement patterns. These shifts can have consequences on their ranging behaviours that can scale up to alter the footprints of animal populations.

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