Fixed and flexible: coexistence of obligate and facultative migratory strategies in a freshwater fish.

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Abstract

Migration is an important event in many animal life histories, but the degree to which individual animals participate in seasonal migrations often varies within populations. The powerful ecological and evolutionary consequences of such partial migration are now well documented, but the underlying mechanisms are still heavily debated. One potential mechanism of partial migration is between-individual variation in body condition, where animals in poor condition cannot pay the costs of migration and hence adopt a resident strategy. However, underlying intrinsic traits may overrule such environmental influence, dictating individual consistency in migratory patterns. Unfortunately, field tests of individual consistency compared to the importance of individual condition on migratory propensity are rare. Here we analyse 6 years of field data on roach migration, gathered by tagging almost 3000 individual fish and monitoring their seasonal migrations over extended periods of time. Our aims were to provide a field test of the role of condition in wild fish for migratory decisions, and also to assess individual consistency in migratory tendency. Our analyses reveal that (1) migratory strategy, in terms of migration/residency, is highly consistent within individuals over time and (2) there is a positive relationship between condition and the probability of migration, but only in individuals that adopt a migratory strategy at some point during their lives. However, life-long residents do not differ in condition to migrants, hence body condition is only a good predictor of migratory tendency in fish with migratory phenotypes and not a more general determinant of migratory tendency for the population. As resident individuals can achieve very high body condition and still remain resident, we suggest that our data provides some of the first field evidence to show that both facultative and obligate strategies can co-exist within populations of migratory animals.

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  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere90294
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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