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Relative brain size is associated with natal dispersal rate and species' vulnerability to climate change in seabirds

Constanti Crosby, Laurel; Sayol, Ferran; Horswill, Catharine; (2023) Relative brain size is associated with natal dispersal rate and species' vulnerability to climate change in seabirds. Oikos , Article e09698. 10.1111/oik.09698. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The cognitive buffer hypothesis proposes that species with larger brains (relative to their body size) exhibit greater behavioural flexibility, conferring an advantage in unpredictable or novel environments. Therefore, behavioural flexibility – and relative brain size – are likely to be important predictors of a species' vulnerability to anthropogenic pressures and, ultimately, extinction risk. However, current evidence linking brain size to species' vulnerability and extinction risk is inconclusive. Furthermore, studies examining the relationship between relative brain size and behavioural flexibility have mainly focused on foraging innovations, whilst other forms of behavioural flexibility remain unexplored. In this study, we collate species-specific information and examine links between relative brain size, rates of natal and adult dispersal (a measure of flexibility in breeding site fidelity), vulnerability to six anthropogenic threats and extinction risk for 131 species of seabird. We focused our study on seabirds, a highly threatened group that displays large variation in both relative brain size and dispersal behaviour. We found a significant positive relationship between relative brain size and natal dispersal rate, suggesting that relative brain size could enhance flexibility in breeding site choice in seabirds, consistent with the cognitive buffer hypothesis. However, this relationship does not persist when we consider adult dispersal, possibly reflecting constraints imposed by mate selection and knowledge transfer in seabirds. We also show that relative brain size is negatively associated with vulnerability to climate change. These findings have immediate application for predicting interspecific variation in species' vulnerability to climate change and identifying priority species for conservation.

Type: Article
Title: Relative brain size is associated with natal dispersal rate and species' vulnerability to climate change in seabirds
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/oik.09698
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/oik.09698
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Oikos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10167555
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