Article: article from journal or magazin.
Melanin-based colouration predicts natal dispersal in the barn owl, Tyto alba
Searching for a suitable breeding site is an important decision in the life of most animals. The decisions where to settle and how far to travel before doing so depend on many factors. Individual differences in dispersal distance could result from different strategies (e.g. specialists versus generalists), which might result in similar reproductive success in different habitats, or different competitive abilities to acquire a territory close to the natal site. The barn owl is polymorphic in melanic coloration, which is associated with many physiological and behavioural traits such as habitat choice, stress response and docility, raising the possibility that the coloration is also related to dispersal. We studied natal dispersal (from rearing site to site of first breeding attempt) and breeding dispersal (from one breeding site to the next) in barn owls using a long-term data set. Darker reddish individuals moved further than paler individuals during natal dispersal, but not during breeding dispersal. A cross-fostering experiment showed that the colour of the biological and foster parents had no influence on dispersal distance. The distance dispersed by parents and same-sex offspring was correlated, whereas natal and breeding dispersal were not repeatable within individuals, indicating that they are two different processes. Given that the distance travelled in natal dispersal appears to be heritable, the underlying genes might be coupled to those related to coloration. We discuss hypotheses to explain the potential adaptive function of the link between coloration and natal dispersal.
animal personality, barn owl, breeding dispersal, local adaptation, natal dispersal, Tyto alba
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