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Phenotype-limited distributions: short-billed birds move away during times that prey bury deeply
Duijns, S.; van Gils, J.A.; Smart, J.; Piersma, T. (2015). Phenotype-limited distributions: short-billed birds move away during times that prey bury deeply. Royal Society Open Science 2: 1-11.
In: Royal Society Open Science. The Royal Society: London. ISSN 2054-5703; e-ISSN 2054-5703, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Limosa lapponica (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    body size; distribution; food availability; Limosa lapponica; morphology; resource use

Authors  Top 
  • Duijns, S., more
  • van Gils, J.A., more
  • Smart, J.
  • Piersma, T., more

    In our seasonal world, animals face a variety of environmental conditions in the course of the year. To cope with such seasonality, animals may be phenotypically flexible, but some phenotypic traits are fixed. If fixed phenotypic traits are functionally linked to resource use, then animals should redistribute in response to seasonally changing resources, leading to a ‘phenotype-limited’ distribution. Here, we examine this possibility for a shorebird, the bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica; a long-billed and sexually dimorphic shorebird), that has to reach buried prey with a probing bill of fixed length. The main prey of female bar-tailed godwits is buried deeper in winter than in summer. Using sightings of individually marked females, we found that in winter only longer-billed individuals remained in the Dutch Wadden Sea, while the shorter-billed individuals moved away to an estuary with a more benign climate such as the Wash. Although longer-billed individuals have the widest range of options in winter and could therefore be selected for, counterselection may occur during the breeding season on the tundra, where surface-living prey may be captured more easily with shorter bills. Phenotype-limited distributions could be a widespread phenomenon and, when associated with assortative migration and mating, it may act as a precursor of phenotypic evolution.

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