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Multi-scale effects of nestling diet on breeding performance in a terrestrial top predator inferred from stable isotope analysis

By Jaime Resano Mayor, 1974- Antonio Hernández Matías, Joan Real, Marcos Moleón, Francesc Parés, Richard Inger and Stuart Bearhop

Abstract

Inter-individual diet variation within populations is likely to have important ecological and evolutionary implications. The diet-fitness relationships at the individual level and the emerging population processes are, however, poorly understood for most avian predators inhabiting complex terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we use an isotopic approach to assess the trophic ecology of nestlings in a long-lived raptor, the Bonelli"s eagle Aquila fasciata, and investigate whether nestling dietary breath and main prey consumption can affect the species" reproductive performance at two spatial scales: territories within populations and populations over a large geographic area. At the territory level, those breeding pairs whose nestlings consumed similar diets to the overall population (i.e. moderate consumption of preferred prey, but complemented by alternative prey categories) or those disproportionally consuming preferred prey were more likely to fledge two chicks. An increase in the diet diversity, however, related negatively with productivity. The age and replacements of breeding pair members had also an influence on productivity, with more fledglings associated to adult pairs with few replacements, as expected in long-lived species. At the population level, mean productivity was higher in those population-years with lower dietary breadth and higher diet similarity among territories, which was related to an overall higher consumption of preferred prey. Thus, we revealed a correspondence in diet-fitness relationships at two spatial scales: territories and populations. We suggest that stable isotope analyses may be a powerful tool to monitor the diet of terrestrial avian predators on large spatio-temporal scales, which could serve to detect potential changes in the availability of those prey on which predators depend for breeding. We encourage ecologists and evolutionary and conservation biologists concerned with the multi-scale fitness consequences of inter-individual variation in resource use to employ similar stable isotope-based approaches, which can be successfully applied to complex ecosystems such as the Mediterranean

Topics: Biologia de poblacions, Alimentació animal, Àguiles, Population biology, Animal feeding, Eagles
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095320
OAI identifier: oai:diposit.ub.edu:2445/56063
Journal:

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