Fitness consequences of different migratory strategies in partially migratory populations: a multi-taxa meta-analysis

Claire Buchan, James Gilroy, Inês Catry, Aldina Franco

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1. Partial migration – wherein migratory and non-migratory individuals exist within the same population – represents a behavioural dimorphism; for it to persist over time, both strategies should yield equal individual fitness. This balance may be maintained through trade-offs where migrants gain survival benefits by avoiding unfavourable conditions, while residents gain breeding benefits from early access to resources.
2. There has been little overarching quantitative analysis of the evidence for this fitness balance. As migrants – especially long-distance migrants – may be particularly vulnerable to environmental change, it is possible that recent anthropogenic impacts could drive shifts in fitness balances within these populations.
3. We tested these predictions using a multi-taxa meta-analysis. Of 2939 reviewed studies, 23 contained suitable information for meta-analysis, yielding 129 effect sizes.
4. Of these, 73% (n=94) reported higher resident fitness, 22% (n=28) reported higher migrant fitness, and 5% (n=7) reported equal fitness. Once weighted for precision, we found balanced fitness benefits across the entire dataset, but a consistently higher fitness of residents over migrants in birds and herpetofauna (the best-sampled groups). Residency benefits were generally associated with survival, not breeding success, and increased with the number of years of data over which effect sizes were calculated, suggesting deviations from fitness parity are not due to sampling artefacts.
5. A pervasive survival benefit to residency documented in recent literature could indicate that increased exposure to threats associated with anthropogenic change faced by migrating individuals may be shifting the relative fitness balance between strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-690
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date28 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • behavioural dimorphism
  • climate change
  • evolution of migration
  • migratory strategy
  • movement ecology
  • partial migration

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