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Crepuscular foraging by a pursuit-diving seabird: tactics of common murres in response to the diel vertical migration of capelin
Regular, P.M., Davoren, G.K., Hedd, A. & Montevecchi, W.A. (2010) Mar Ecol Prog Ser 415:295-304
The spatial and temporal distribution of prey directly influences the foraging and feeding behaviour of predators. To investigate predator-prey interactions through the diel cycle, we examined continuous records of diving activity by a pursuit-diving seabird, the common murre Uria aalge, in conjunction with fine-scale data on the vertical distribution of their main prey, capelin Mallotus villosus, off the northeast Newfoundland coast, Canada. Diurnal patterns in the diving activities of murres closely reflected changes in the vertical distribution and movements of capelin. During daylight hours, 43% of murre dives were deep (>= 50 m), bringing murres into sub-0C water in the Cold Intermediate Layer (CIL; ~40 to 240 m), when 82% of capelin biomass was located within or below the CIL. At night, murres concentrated diving activity at shallower depths (94% of dives were < 50 m) when 86% of capelin biomass was in the upper water column. Capelin migrated through the water column during twilight periods, moving up at dusk and down at dawn. In response, murres' diving frequency increased and diving depths were graduated, becoming shallower through dusk and deeper through dawn. Crepuscular habits indicate that capelin are more accessible during twilight periods. In summary, though murres are constrained by commuting costs, they show exceptional behavioural flexibility in their efforts to access capelin throughout their diel vertical migration (DVM). The various trade-offs involved in such predator-prey interactions are discussed, as are the ecological consequences of the DVM pattern across trophic levels.

Keywords: Crepuscular foraging, Diel vertical migration, DVM, Common murre, Uria aalge, Capelin, Mallotus villosus, Prey distribution, Diving behaviour


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