Sex-specific foraging behaviour in tropical boobies: does size matter?


*Corresponding author.


Sex differences in the foraging behaviour of adults have been observed in a number of sexually size-dimorphic birds, and the usual inference has been that these sex-specific differences are driven primarily by differences in body size. An alternative explanation is that foraging differences result from sex differences unrelated to size, such as sex-specific nutritional requirements. To examine these alternative hypotheses, the foraging behaviour of parents was compared between two sympatric and congeneric species of seabird, the Brown Booby Sula leucogaster, which is highly sexually size-dimorphic (females 38% larger) and the Red-footed Booby S. sula, in which sex differences in body size are less marked (females 15% larger). Using temperature and depth loggers, we found that there were highly significant differences in the foraging trip durations and diving behaviour of male and female Brown Boobies. These sex differences were less marked in Red-footed Boobies. Thus, our interspecies comparison revealed that the magnitude of the difference between the sexes matched the sexual size dimorphism of the species, providing support for the size hypothesis.