Sexual differences in the foraging behaviour of parents have been observed in a number of sexually sizedimorphic birds, particularly seabirds, and the usual inference has been that these sex–specific differences are mediated primarily by differences in body size. To test this explanation, we compared the foraging behaviour of parents in a monomorphic seabird species, the northern gannet Morus bassanus. Using specially designed instruments and radio telemetry we found that individuals of both sexes were consistent in the directions and durations of their foraging trips. However, there were significant differences in the foraging behaviour of males and females. Female gannets were not only more selective than males in the areas where they foraged, but they also made longer, deeper dives and spent more time on the sea surface than males. As the sexes are morphologically similar in this species, then these differences are unlikely to have been mediated by body size. Our work highlights the need to investigate sexual differences in the foraging behaviour of seabirds and other species more closely, in order to test alternative theories that do not rely on differences in body size.

Royal Society Login

Log in through your institution