Migration

The importance of lugworms

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Science  21 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1373
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6421.1373-a

Bar-tailed godwits, Limosa lapponica, feed faster on lugworms during shorter winters.

PHOTO: AGAMI PHOTO AGENCY/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

As the climate warms, Arctic ice melts are occurring earlier in spring, and earlier ice melt means an early Arctic summer. For birds that migrate to the poles from temperate and tropical regions to breed, seasonal shifts represent a notable challenge to reproductive physiology. Rakhimberdiev et al. show that a wading bird called a bar-tailed godwit can arrive on the breeding grounds earlier in the year by shortening its over-wintering time by reducing the time it spends on the refueling grounds in the Wadden Sea of northwestern Europe. Increased rates of feeding, especially on lugworms, can compensate for a shorter feeding season. However, mortality is extensive if food sources become scarce, with one major factor being mechanized human harvest of lugworms in the Wadden Sea.

Nat. Comm. 9, 4263 (2018).

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