Determinants and costs of natal dispersal in a lekking species


L. A. Hardouin, Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation, PO Box 47, 33250 Missour, Morocco. FL and YH also at: RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC, PO Box 61741, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. E-mail:


Avoidance of competition and inbreeding have been invoked as the major ultimate causes of natal dispersal, but proximate factors such as sex, body condition or birth date can also be important. Natal dispersal is expected to be of particular importance to understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of dispersal strategies, since 1) numerous evidences suggest that individual differences in dispersal strategies are expressed early in life (i.e. at the onset of dispersal movement), 2) ultimate and proximate factors are more likely to act during this stage and 3) this stage is associated with the highest mortality rates in most vertebrates. We analysed the natal dispersal (hereafter, dispersal) behaviour in 100 marked individuals of a lekking species, the North African houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata undulata, during four years. We investigated the effects of proximate factors on dispersal pattern and distance, as well as the mortality cost associated with movement using multievent models, allowing uncertainty in sex assignment and mixture of live recaptures and dead recoveries. Overall, males exhibited longer dispersal distances than females, contrary to the common pattern in birds. Moreover, males in poorer body condition moved further than those in better condition, whereas distance was independent of body condition in females. Finally, survival rates during dispersal were lower for females than for males and were negatively correlated with the distances covered with a similar distance-survival slope in the two sexes. Collectively, our results suggest that 1) there is substantial dispersal cost in both sexes, 2) dispersal is strongly male-biased, 3) this bias is unlikely to be explained by differential movement costs of each sex, and 4) dispersal differences found across different categories of individuals are in broad agreement with both the inbreeding avoidance and intraspecific competition mechanisms for dispersal.