Climate change brings with it a variety of unexpected consequences. El Niño-Southern Oscillation episodes mimic conditions of a warming climate except on a shorter timescale. We found that marine gulls nesting in the Pacific Northwest cannibalize significantly more of their neighbors’ eggs during El Niño events than during other times. El Niño events are associated with higher sea surface temperatures which, in turn, depress marine food webs and reduce the amount of food available to gulls and other marine birds and mammals. Despite the risk of attack from parent birds, an egg cannibal can obtain half its daily energy requirement simply by stealing and eating one of its neighbor’s eggs. Consequently, cannibalism is more common when sea surface temperatures rise. But female gulls seem to have developed a surprising adaptation to reduce the chance that one of their eggs will be cannibalized. This adaptation is the topic of the next talk, “Hot and Bothered II: Climate Change, Cannibalism, and Ovulation Synchrony”, by Shandelle Henson.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/shandelle_henson/24/