The Science of Nature

, 104:103 | Cite as

Reduced population size does not affect the mating strategy of a vulnerable and endemic seabird

  • Cristina Nava
  • Verónica C. Neves
  • Malvina Andris
  • Marie-Pierre Dubois
  • Philippe Jarne
  • Mark Bolton
  • Joël Bried
Original Paper


Bottleneck episodes may occur in small and isolated animal populations, which may result in decreased genetic diversity and increased inbreeding, but also in mating strategy adjustment. This was evaluated in the vulnerable and socially monogamous Monteiro’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates monteiroi, a seabird endemic to the Azores archipelago which has suffered a dramatic population decline since the XVth century. To do this, we conducted a genetic study (18 microsatellite markers) in the population from Praia islet, which has been monitored over 16 years. We found no evidence that a genetic bottleneck was associated with this demographic decline. Monteiro’s Storm-petrels paired randomly with respect to genetic relatedness and body measurements. Pair fecundity was unrelated to genetic relatedness between partners. We detected only two cases of extra-pair parentage associated with an extra-pair copulation (out of 71 offspring). Unsuccessful pairs were most likely to divorce the next year, but genetic relatedness between pair mates and pair breeding experience did not influence divorce. Divorce enabled individuals to improve their reproductive performances after re-mating only when the new partner was experienced. Re-pairing with an experienced partner occurred more frequently when divorcees changed nest than when they retained their nest. This study shows that even in strongly reduced populations, genetic diversity can be maintained, inbreeding does not necessarily occur, and random pairing is not risky in terms of pair lifetime reproductive success. Given, however, that we found no clear phenotypic mate choice criteria, the part played by non-morphological traits should be assessed more accurately in order to better understand seabird mating strategies.


Mate choice Genetic relatedness Body size Inbreeding Microsatellite markers Hydrobates monteiroi 



This study was funded by a small grant from the Seabird Group awarded to CN, by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PRAXIS/C/BIA/13194/98 and POCTI-BIA-13194/98 to MB, PTDC/BIABDE/67286/2006 to JB, and SFRH/BPD/88914/2012 to VCN) and Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional (Programme COMPETE, ref. FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-007061). It was also supported by the Programmes ‘MARE’ (Life contract B4-3200/98-509), ‘OGAMP’ (Interreg IIIB-MAC/4.2/A2), ‘MARMAC’ (Interreg IIIB/FEDER/MARMAC/003-4/2005-6 and Interreg IIIB-05/MAC/4.2/A4), MoniAves (Programme launched by the Regional Environment Directorate from the Azores), all coordinated by R. S. Santos, and also by two Luso-French Integrated Actions Programmes (PESSOA 4.1.1/França and PAUILF F-30/07). IMAR-DOP/UAç is funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia and Fundo Regional para a Ciência e Tecnologia - Azores (Research Unit No. 531 and Associate Laboratory No. 9-ISR-Lisbon). Microsatellite development was also supported by the AIP BioRessources ‘EcoMicro’ grant from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique and by the R&D budget of Genoscreen (Lille, France). A. Campos, B. Hothersall, M. Villafane, M. C. Magalhães, M. Laranjo, P.-A. Crochet, M. Antunes, R. Fontaine, P. Visicchio, S. Serba, L. Palou, E. Monteiro and P. Monteiro provided field assistance. M. Melo, L. Aguiar, P. Raposo and R. Oliveira provided transportation to Praia islet. S.-Y. Kim provided advice on GLMM analyses. Thanks also to the staff from SMGE of the CNRS-CEFE and from the “plateforme génotypage-séquençage” of SFR MEB (Montpellier Environnement Biodiversité), and to three anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Fieldwork, including bird handling and blood sampling, was conducted under licence (permits issued each year by the Regional Environment Directorate from the Azores).

Supplementary material

114_2017_1523_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Nava
    • 1
  • Verónica C. Neves
    • 1
    • 2
  • Malvina Andris
    • 1
  • Marie-Pierre Dubois
    • 3
  • Philippe Jarne
    • 3
  • Mark Bolton
    • 4
  • Joël Bried
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.MARE (Marine and Environmental Science Centre), IMAR (Institute of Marine Research) and LARSyS Associated Lab, Departamento de Oceanografia e PescasUniversidade dos AçoresHortaPortugal
  2. 2.CIBIO Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, CIBIO-Azores, Department of Science and Technology, Portugal
  3. 3.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175, Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueUniversité de Montpellier, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier-Ecole Pratique des Hautes EtudesMontpellier Cedex 5France
  4. 4.RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, UK Headquarters, The LodgeBedfordshireUK
  5. 5.BiarritzFrance

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