The dance of the Cape gannet may contain social information on foraging behaviour

TitleThe dance of the Cape gannet may contain social information on foraging behaviour
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsCourbin, N, Chinho, T, Pichegru, L, Verma-Grémillet, A, Péron, C, Ryan, PG, Grémillet, D
JournalAnimal Behaviour

Social information percolates through a variety of channels to influence animal decision making, with a notable effect on reproductive and feeding success. Colonial central place foragers can reduce time to locate ephemeral food patches and/or increase foraging rate by following their informed peers, parasitizing direction of returning successful foragers, or being intentionally informed on distant food locations at the colony (e.g. the waggle dance of the honey bee). Ceremonial behaviours may also deliver social foraging information between mates, which can spread inadvertently to neighbours. Here we tested for information display in Cape gannets, Morus capensis, a socially monogamous species, during the elaborate dance ceremony performed each time a partner returns to the nest during the breeding season. We tracked fine-scale foraging behaviour of gannets using bird-borne GPS recorders, and videorecorded their subsequent dance ceremony, which involved up to 14 different displays. As we hypothesized, dance characteristics were associated with foraging trip features. Notably, overall dance duration was negatively linked to foraging trip duration, which was highly positively correlated with foraging range, foraging path length and time spent foraging during the trip. Overall dance duration was also negatively linked with distance to the main foraging grounds. Additionally, the duration of preening behaviour was related to the bearing of the main feeding spot. The latter relationship was supported by a Bayesian model averaging analysis, allowing inferences robust to multiple comparisons. Overall, ceremonial behaviour may provide social foraging information on feeding locations, while evidence for further information transfer to the mate or neighbours was not tested here. Frequent updating on prey spatial distribution, inadvertently communicated or not, should be particularly valuable for predators tracking ephemeral prey patches, providing an additional advantage to colonial living. Our results may have strong implications for cultural evolution in animal societies.

Catégorie HCERES
ACL - Peer-reviewed articles
Publication coopération et recherche SUD