Sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Pacific Northwest of North America rose 1 °C during the last half of the twentieth century. Cannibalism, a behavior observed in diverse taxa, is often associated with low food supplies, which for marine animals can be precipitated by high SSTs. In an 8 year study, we found that in years of higher sea surface temperatures, Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens) breeding in a colony in Washington State, Salish Sea, USA, tended to exhibit higher rates of egg cannibalism by males, higher levels of every-other-day clutch-initiation synchrony by females, and longer egg-laying seasons than in years of lower SST. Clutch-initiation synchrony increased the odds that an egg survived cannibalism and may serve as an adaptive response to egg cannibalism. Short-term climate and resource fluctuations associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events may select for behavioral plasticity in marine organisms, allowing long-lived individuals such as marine birds to switch between alternative life history tactics. The implications for long-term SST warming, however, remain unknown.

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