Get access

Cultural inheritance drives site fidelity and migratory connectivity in a long-distance migrant

Authors

  • XAVIER A. HARRISON,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
    2. NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility – Sheffield, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Alfred Denny Building, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • TOM TREGENZA,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • RICHARD INGER,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • KENDREW COLHOUN,

    1. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Castle Espie, Ballydrain Road, Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland BT23 6EA, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • DEBORAH A. DAWSON,

    1. NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility – Sheffield, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Alfred Denny Building, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • GUDMUNDUR A. GUDMUNDSSON,

    1. Icelandic Institute of Natural History, PO Box 5320, IS-125 Reykjavik, Iceland
    Search for more papers by this author
  • DAVID J. HODGSON,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • GAVIN J. HORSBURGH,

    1. NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility – Sheffield, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Alfred Denny Building, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • GRAHAM McELWAINE,

    1. 100 Strangford Road, Downpatrick, Co. Down BT30 7JD, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • STUART BEARHOP

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Xavier Harrison and Stuart Bearhop, Fax: ++44(0) 1326253638; E-mails: xavierh22@gmail.com and s.bearhop@ex.ac.uk

Abstract

Cultural transmission is thought to be a mechanism by which migratory animals settle into habitats, but little evidence exists in wild populations because of the difficulty of following individuals over successive generations and wide geographical distances. Cultural inheritance of migration routes represents a mechanism whereby geographical isolation can arise between separate groups and could constrain individuals to potentially suboptimal sites within their range. Conversely, adopting the parental migratory route in adult life, rather than dispersing randomly, may increase an individual’s reproductive success because that strategy has already been proven to allow successful breeding. We combined a pedigree of related light-bellied Brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota) with 6 years of observations of marked birds to calculate the dispersal distances of adult offspring from their parents in both Ireland and Iceland. In both countries, the majority of offspring were found to recruit into or near their parental sites, indicating migratory connectivity in the flyway. Despite this kin structure, we found no evidence of genetic differentiation using genotype data from 1127 individuals across 15 microsatellite loci. We suggest that the existence of migratory connectivity of subpopulations is far more common than previous research indicates and that cultural information may play an important role in structuring reproductive isolation among them.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary