Gannets both consistent and flexible in their interactions
© Steve Clancy Photography/Getty
Seabirds are consistently social but vary their interactions depending on their environment and activity.
Seabirds gather in spectacular colonies, but it is unclear whether ensuing social bonds provide benefits or simply arise from dense colonial living. If this socialization is driven by mutual benefit rather than necessity, the birds should be gregarious even when looking for food away from the colony.
A study involving Deakin University researchers studied the social bonds of Australasian gannets, both in the colony and while foraging, and found that the birds socialized consistently in various activities, but particularly during foraging.
Ties between individual birds were flexible, but many associations occurred more often than chance alone would yield, suggesting they preferentially select their companions when conditions allow.
These findings offer insights into the extent animals go to maintain social ties, and hence the degree to which social associations benefit them.
- Ecology Letters 23, 1085–1096 (2020). doi: 10.1111/ele.13507