Paternal transmission of migration knowledge in a long-distance bird migrant

Authors: Patrik Byholm, Martin Beal, Natalie Isaksson, Ulrik Lötberg, & Susanne Åkesson

Year: 2002

Publication: Nature Communications

Publication Link:

Abstract: While advances in biologging have revealed many spectacular animal migrations, it remains
poorly understood how young animals learn to migrate. Even in social species, it is unclear
how migratory skills are transmitted from one generation to another and what implications
this may have. Here we show that in Caspian terns Hydroprogne caspia family groups, genetic
and foster male parents carry the main responsibility for migrating with young. During
migration, young birds stayed close to an adult at all times, with the bond dissipating on
the wintering grounds. Solo-migrating adults migrated faster than did adults accompanying
young. Four young that lost contact with their parent at an early stage of migration all died.
During their first solo migration, subadult terns remained faithful to routes they took with
their parents as young. Our results provide evidence for cultural inheritance of migration
knowledge in a long-distance bird migrant and show that sex-biased (allo)parental care en
route shapes migration through social learning.

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