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Coming together or doing it for themselves? The apparent paradox of social information and individuality in foraging

Coming together or doing it for themselves? The apparent paradox of social information and individuality in foraging


Social interactions are fundamental for many ecological and evolutionary processes, including foraging. However, in many animals that use social information, a high degree of individuality in traits such as site and diet selection also exists. This represents an apparent paradox when sociality could potentially reduce individuality. Thus, it is unknown how these two processes interact to shape current and future foraging behaviour. For instance, can some animals become specialised in terms of social information use, or does group foraging erode individuality? This project will determine the interplay between the social and learned components of foraging, and levels of specialisation in habitat use and diet, across of range of seabirds in the Sulidae family (a morphologically constrained but geographically diverse group). State-of-the-art biologgers will be used to collect coupled video and GPS data to quantify the prevalence of group, solitary and commensal foraging in focal taxa representative of tropical and temperate environments, and link strategy to foraging success. State-space models, trained on coupled datasets, will be applied to long-term tracking data from nine Sulid species, to allow a family-scale comparison of specialisation. Through these focused analyses of individual foraging, this research action will enable predictions about the adaptive capabilities of populations to climate change, thus aligning with EU environmental priorities. The current skill set of the experienced researcher, together with a suite of newly acquired skills gained under tutelage of the strong supervisory partnership at host organisations, will make this timely research possible. This global, interdisciplinary project will result in high levels of knowledge exchange, foster international collaboration, and maximise the experienced researcher’s professional development, mobility and career potential, while addressing a fundamental question by combining two fields in bioscience.




The Queen'S Drive Northcote House
Ex4 4qj Exeter

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 295 940,16

Partners (1)

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Project information

Grant agreement ID: 844027


Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 September 2020

  • End date

    31 August 2023

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 295 940,16

  • EU contribution

    € 295 940,16

Coordinated by:


United Kingdom