Publisher: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Many large marine vertebrates are today threatened by human activities and it is therefore crucial to obtain information on their distribution and behaviour at sea. In particular little is known about the time necessary for juveniles to acquire the foraging skills of adults. We tracked 13 juvenile wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans by satellite telemetry during their first year at sea. They covered an average distance of 184,000 km during the first year and restricted their dispersal to the unproductive waters of the subtropical Indian Ocean and Tasman Sea. This region of low wind velocities does not overlap with the foraging areas used by adults. After an innate phase of rapid dispersal with a fixed flight direction, young birds progressively increased their daily flight distances and attained adult flight efficiency within their first six months at sea. The complete overlap of the juveniles' foraging ranges with major long-line fisheries in the subtropical waters constitutes a major threat that could jeopardize the long term recovery ability of populations of the endangered wandering albatross in the Indian Ocean.