The variations in migration that comprise partial diel migrations, putatively occur entirely as a consequence of behavioural flexibility. However, seasonal partial migrations are increasingly recognised to be mediated by a combination of reversible plasticity in response to environmental variation and individual variation due to genetic and environmental effects. Here, we test the hypothesis that while partial diel migration heterogeneity occurs primarily due to short-term within-individual flexibility in behaviour, long-term individual differences in migratory behaviour also underpin this migration variation. Specifically, we use a hierarchical behavioural reaction norm approach to partition within- and among-individual variation in depth use and diel plasticity in depth use, across short- and long-term time-scales, in a group of 47 burbot (Lota lota) tagged with depth-sensing acoustic telemetry transmitters. We found that within-individual variation at the among-dates-within-seasons and among-seasons scale, explained the dominant proportion of phenotypic variation. However, individuals also repeatedly differed in their expression of migration behaviour over the 2 year study duration. These results reveal that diel migration variation occurs primarily due to short-term within-individual flexibility in depth use and diel migration behaviour. However, repeatable individual differences also played a key role in mediating partial diel migration. These findings represent a significant advancement of our understanding of the mechanisms generating the important, yet poorly understood phenomena of partial diel migration. Moreover, given the pervasive occurrence of diel migrations across aquatic taxa, these findings indicate that individual differences have an important, yet previously unacknowledged role in structuring the temporal and vertical dynamics of aquatic ecosystems.

Additional Metadata
Keywords animal personality, behavioural reaction norms, diel migrations, hierarchical model, migration continuum, partial migration, telemetry
Persistent URL
Journal Journal of Animal Ecology
Harrison, P.M. (Philip M.), Gutowsky, L.F.G. (Lee F. G.), Martins, E.G. (Eduardo G.), Patterson, D.A. (David A.), Cooke, S.J, & Power, M. (Michael). (2017). Partial diel migration: A facultative migration underpinned by long-term inter-individual variation. Journal of Animal Ecology, 86(5), 1246–1256. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12716