Trophic overlap between sexes in the dimorphic African black oystercatcher foraging on an alien mussel Article - 2014

Sophie Kohler, Maëlle Connan, Joanna Kolasinski, Yves Cherel, Christopher D. Mcquaid, Sébastien Jaquemet

Sophie Kohler, Maëlle Connan, Joanna Kolasinski, Yves Cherel, Christopher D. Mcquaid, Sébastien Jaquemet, « Trophic overlap between sexes in the dimorphic African black oystercatcher foraging on an alien mussel  », Austral Ecology, 2014, pp. 576-578. ISSN 1442-9985

Abstract

Sex-specific feeding segregation related to sexual bill dimorphism has been described in several oystercatcher species, including the African black oystercatcher. For the latter, studies concerned only a small number of breeding pairs and were done prior the invasion of the South African rocky shores by the Mediterranean mussel, which is believed to have benefited oystercatchers by increasing overall biomass. Here, we investigated geographic variability in the segregation of diet, biometrics and body condition between sexes in the African species, in relation to changes in foraging habitats along the South African coastline, using stable isotope analyses. Males and females and their potential prey (mussels, limpets, polychaetes and ascidians) were sampled on the southern African west, south-west and south-east coasts for stable isotope analyses and biometrics and body conditions of birds were measured. Bill dimorphism occurred throughout the study area and south-west males had lower body conditions than other males and females in general. Sexes displayed little differences in their δ13C ratios and in the relative consumption of the different prey throughout the study area, except on the south-east coast where males were slightly depleted in 13C relative to females and the most abundant prey elsewhere (the Mediterranean mussel) is rare. Females were slightly but significantly enriched in 15N by 0.3‰ compared to their breeding partners and this did not link clearly to differences in diet.We argue that the combined effect of biogeographic variations in rocky shores diversity and biomass, heterogeneous invasion by the Mediterranean mussel on the South African coastline and bill dimorphism may have altered the sex-specific feeding behaviour of oystercatchers differently between coastal regions and possibly had an additional cost for male oystercatchers faced with lower prey biomass and diversity on the south-west coast.

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