As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Life of an albatross: Tackling individuality in studies of populations


A study follows 9,685 wandering albatrosses throughout their long lives, seeking the intrinsic differences that make some individuals outstanding performers

Date:  December 7, 2017
Source:  Ecological Society of America

Summary:
Ecologists commonly round off the individuality of individuals, treating animals of the same species, sex, and age like identical units. But individual differences can have demographic effects on interpretation of data at the scale of whole populations, if due to an underlying variability in individual quality, not chance. Researchers examined in the peculiarities that make some wandering albatrosses more successful than others.

When ecologists study populations of animals, they commonly round off the individuality of individuals, treating animals of the same species, sex, and age like identical units. This has practical utility for studies focused on how populations change in size and composition and how they respond to their environment.

Rémi Fay, a student at Université de La Rochelle, in Villiers-en-Bois, France, is interested in the peculiarities that make some animals more successful than others. Unrecognized differences in performance between individuals can sometimes have demographic effects that skew the interpretation of data at the scale of whole populations, if the differences are not due to chance but to an underlying variability in "individual quality." If, for example, low-quality individuals die young, the population as a whole would appear to gain in performance with age.


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