The key principle of natural selection is that only the fittest survive long enough to reproduce. Individual quality or acquired experience from very early in life are believed to predict an animal’s ability to cope with the dangers of wildlife. Although research has suggested that more active animals are often fitter, few studies had put the theory to the test by directly comparing the activity of juvenile animals and their subsequent survival in the wild. White storks engage in long-distance migratory flights to breed in Europe and overwinter in Africa. As youngsters face high mortality during their first migration journey, Shay Rotics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, together with an international team of experts realised that these birds were an excellent case study to test whether an active lifestyle in early life predicts subsequent survival.

Across four consecutive...

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