Sources of variability in heterospecific social information use for breeding habitat selection: Role of genetics and personality in collared flycatchers

  • Date:
  • Location: Fontannes Room, Building Darwin D, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 43 boulevard du 11 novembre 1918, Villeurbanne, France
  • Doctoral student: Morinay, Jennifer
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Zooekologi
  • Contact person: Morinay, Jennifer
  • Disputation

All their life, individuals have to make decisions that may strongly affect their fitness. To optimise their decisions, they can use personally acquired information but also information obtained from observing other individuals (“social information”).

The propensity to gather and use social information and the information meaning might depend on both individual and environmental factors. Studying what drives within- and between-individual differences in social information use should help us understand the evolutionary potential of this supposedly adaptive behaviour. The aim of my PhD was to empirically investigate sources of variability in heterospecific social information use for breeding habitat selection. I worked on a natural population of collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis, Gotland Island, Sweden), a passerine species shown to cue on the presence, density, reproductive investment and nest site preference of dominant titmice for settlement decisions. Using both long term and experimental data, I showed that the use of heterospecific social information, measured as the probability to copy tit nest preference, is not heritable but depends on male age and aggressiveness and on tit apparent breeding investment at the time of flycatcher settlement. Using a playback experiment, I also showed that female flycatchers can fine-tune nest site choice according to (i) song features supposedly reflecting great tit (Parus major) quality and (ii) their own aggressiveness level. This thesis highlights the importance of personality in the use of heterospecific social information for breeding site selection in this population, and broadens the traditionally known sources of heterospecific information to fine song characteristics reflecting heterospecifics’ quality. To fully understand the evolutionary mechanisms and consequences of heterospecific social information use, genetically based plasticity and fitness consequences remain to be explored.