Frequency and consequences of individual dietary specialisation in a wide-ranging marine predator, the northern gannet

Thomas W. Bodey*, Ian R. Cleasby, Stephen C. Votier, Keith C. Hamer, Jason Newton, Samantha C. Patrick, Ewan D. Wakefield, Stuart Bearhop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Individual specialisations in animals are important contributors to a wide range of ecological and evolutionary processes, and have been particularly documented in relation to multiple aspects of foraging behaviours. Central-place foragers, such as seabirds, frequently exhibit pronounced specialisations and individual differences in a variety of foraging traits. In particular, the availability of fisheries discards alongside natural prey resources provides additional potential for differentiation and specialisation for opportunistically scavenging seabird species. However, the consequences of such specialisations for at-sea distributions and intraspecific interactions are not well known. Here, we investigated the links between the degree of dietary specialisation on natural or discarded prey and the foraging movements and spatial occupancy of northern gannets Morus bassanus in relation to differing intraspecific competition at 6 colonies of differing sizes. We found that, at most colonies, individuals with different dietary strategies concentrated foraging at differing levels of intraspecific competition. In addition, individuals pursuing different strategies were frequently, but not consistently, spatially separated, distinctions that were most acutely seen in females. However, this variation in individual strategy had no significant impact on current body condition. These analyses demonstrate how foraging-associated metrics need not covary within an unconstrained system. They also reveal that specialisation can have important consequences for the competitive regimes individuals experience, highlighting the complexity of examining interacting consequences at large spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Early online date4 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2018


  • Fisheries
  • Foraging
  • GPS
  • Individual specialisation
  • Seabird
  • Stable isotope analysis


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