The light's in my eyes: optical modeling demonstrates wind is more important than sea surface-reflected sunlight for foraging herons.

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Date: Sept. 28, 2021
From: PeerJ(Vol. 9)
Publisher: PeerJ. Ltd.
Document Type: Report
Length: 5,903 words
Lexile Measure: 1360L

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Abstract :

Multiple lineages of birds have independently evolved foraging strategies that involve catching aquatic prey by striking at them through the water's surface. Diurnal, visual predators that hunt across the air-water interface encounter several visual challenges, including sun glint, or reflection of sunlight by the water surface. Intense sun glint is common at the air-water interface, and it obscures visual cues from submerged prey. Visually-hunting, cross-media predators must therefore solve the problem of glint to hunt effectively. One obvious solution is to turn away from the sun, which would result in reduction of glint effects. However, turning too far will cast shadows over prey, causing them to flee. Therefore, we hypothesized that foraging herons would orient away from, but not directly opposite to the sun. Our ability to understand how predators achieve a solution to glint is limited by our ability to quantify the amount of glint that free-living predators are actually exposed to under different light conditions. Herons (Ardea spp.) are a good model system for answering questions about cross-media hunting because they are conspicuous, widely distributed, and forage throughout a variety of aquatic habitats, on a variety of submerged prey. To test our hypothesis, we employed radiative transfer modeling of water surface reflectance, drawn from optical oceanography, in a novel context to estimate the visual exposure to glint of free-living, actively foraging herons. We found evidence that Ardea spp. do not use body orientation to compensate for sun glint while foraging and therefore they must have some other, not yet understood, means of compensation, either anatomical or behavioral. Instead of facing away from the sun, herons tended to adjust their position to face into the wind at higher wind speeds. We suggest that radiative transfer modeling is a promising tool for elucidating the ecology and evolution of air-to-water foraging systems.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A677042924