Territoriality should lead to strict dominance, as territory holders typically control access to resources and exclude others from their use. In feeding territories, dominance should be reflected in foraging success and ultimately in reproduction differences; however, these successive links have rarely been made explicit. Therefore, we investigated a population of brown skuas Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi, in which only part of the breeding population occupied feeding territories within penguin colonies. We identified the dominance hierarchy and determined the foraging success of the participants in fights for access to penguin carcasses within the territories. Furthermore, we monitored offspring growth from parents with and without feeding territories. Our results indicated a clear dominance hierarchy with territorial birds in their own territory dominating over territorial breeders from other territories, non-territorial breeders and non-breeding birds. However, territory owners could not completely exclude others from access to food. Foraging success was positively related to dominance scores: The dominant territory owners received 63% of a carcass, whereas non-territorial pairs could get less than 10%. The link between foraging success and offspring development was less clear: Although male chicks of non-territorial parents suffered from lower growth rates and, thus, delayed fledging, there were no such differences in female chicks. Territoriality in skuas did not imply a complete occupation of food, but guaranteed optimal growth conditions for offspring. Non-territorial individuals were forced to search for alternative resources, and the restricted access to the preferred food resulted in inferior conditions for offspring development, making this foraging strategy less rewarding.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Journal publication date2008

ID: 58783