Methods for detecting and quantifying individual specialisation in movement and foraging strategies of marine predators29 Nov 2017
There is increasing realisation that individuals in many animal populations differ substantially in resource, space or habitat use. Differences that cannot be attributed to any a priori way of classifying individuals (i.e. age, sex and other group effects) are often termed ‘individual specialisation’. The aim of this paper is to assess the most common approaches for detecting and quantifying individual specialisation and consistencies in foraging behaviour, movement patterns and diet of marine predators using 3 types of data: conventional diet data, stable isotope ratios and tracking data. Methods using conventional diet data rely on a comparison between the proportions of each dietary source in the total diet and in the diet of individuals, or analyses of the statistical distribution of a prey metric (e.g. size); the latter often involves comparing ratios of individual and population variance. Approaches frequently used to analyse stable isotope or tracking data reduced to 1 dimension (trip characteristics, e.g. maximum trip distance or latitude/longitude at certain landmarks) include correlation tests and repeatability analysis. Finally, various spatial analyses are applied to other types of tracking data (e.g. distances between centroids of distributions or migratory routes, or overlap between distributions), and methods exist to compare habitat use. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, issues arising from other effects unrelated to individual specialisation per se (in particular those related to temporal scale) and potential solutions.