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Ontogenetic shifts from social to experiential learning drive avian migration timing

December 16, 2021

Migrating animals may benefit from social or experiential learning, yet whether and how these learning processes interact or change over time to produce observed migration patterns remains unexplored. Using 16 years of satellite-tracking data from 105 reintroduced whooping cranes, we reveal an interplay between social and experiential learning in migration timing. Both processes dramatically improved individuals’ abilities to dynamically adjust their timing to track environmental conditions along the migration path. However, results revealed an ontogenetic shift in the dominant learning process, whereby subadult birds relied on social information, while mature birds primarily relied on experiential information. These results indicate that the adjustment of migration phenology in response to the environment is a learned skill that depends on both social context and individual age. Assessing how animals successfully learn to time migrations as environmental conditions change is critical for understanding intraspecific differences in migration patterns and for anticipating responses to global change.

Publication Year 2021
Title Ontogenetic shifts from social to experiential learning drive avian migration timing
DOI 10.1038/s41467-021-27626-5
Authors Briana Abrahms, Claire S. Teitelbaum, Thomas Mueller, Sarah J. Converse
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70254805
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle