Navigation Links
To the Antarctic or Brazil for new feathers

Not only land birds, but also some seabirds, cover enormous distances during migration: the sooty shearwater, for example, circumnavigates the earth one and a half times on its travels. Despite this, relatively little is known about the migratory behaviour of seabirds as compared with that of their land-living counterparts. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have studied the migratory behaviour of thin-billed prions and discovered that the animals spend their moulting season in two areas that are at a considerable distance from each other. Thus, it would appear that some seabirds can be extremely flexible and change their habitat if required - a vital adaptation to the unpredictable conditions found on the high seas. (Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, first published online on March 9, 2010)

While it has been possible to trace the migratory behaviour of some of the biggest marine birds, in particular the albatross, using satellite transmitters for more than 20 years now, this has not yet been possible for smaller species. Methods used on land, such as ringing and radio telemetry, offer little prospect of success on the open seas. A team of researchers working with Petra Quillfeldt from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell managed to overcome these difficulties, however, and succeeded in decoding information about the migratory behaviour of thin-billed prions. This approximately black-bird-sized species of the tubenose family, which also includes the albatrosses, fulmarine petrels and storm petrels, breeds from November to February on the Falkland Islands and neighbouring island groups in the South Atlantic. The Max Planck scientists had already demonstrated in an earlier study that at least some of the birds fly to an area south of the Antarctic Convergence zone to moult and renew their feathers. Thin-billed prions were also observed at the same time off the South American shelf and the Brazilian coast.

According to the researchers, 90 percent of the thin-billed prions visit the Antarctic waters. Most of them remain there for the entire moulting period from April to the end of June. Individual birds moult, however, further north, offshore of South America. Despite having these different destinations, the two populations are not genetically separate groups. The scientists succeeded in ringing individual prions during their breeding sojourns and then traced them over a period of several years. The ringed birds tended to show a preference for the area to which they had flown the previous year; however, there were individuals among them that moulted in the other area. Furthermore, one of the study birds started moult in the Antarctic, but later moved further north. "The results show that not only the entire species but also individual thin-billed prions are extremely flexible in their behaviour. This enables them to survive the winter in vast ocean areas with often unpredictable weather conditions and oceanographic cycles in order to renew their plumage and build up fat reserves for the following breeding season," explains Petra Quillfeldt.

The results of the study were obtained with the help of the analysis of carbon and nitrogen atoms of varying weights found in the birds' feathers. The researchers removed one small feather from breeding birds on the Falkland Islands in the South West Atlantic. They also collected the wings of thin-billed prions that had fallen prey to skuas. Small samples of these feathers were then tested for their stable carbon and nitrogen isotope content at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin; a highly sensitive mass spectrometer was used for this purpose. The heavy carbon isotope 13C is not evenly distributed in the ocean. Its frequency in algae, which form the basis of the oceanic food web, declines with sinking sea temperatures. Therefore, birds in the Antarctic Ocean food web have lower 13C values than those who feed in more moderate seas. New feathers are formed during the moulting period and contain varying volumes of 13C, depending on the area in which moulting takes place. As a result, the new feathers store information about the area in which the bird moulted in the form of a characteristic isotope pattern.


Contact: Petra Quillfeldt

Related biology news :

1. Scientists locate apparent hydrothermal vents off Antarctica
2. CCNY professor foresees rising Antarctic snowmelt
3. First comprehensive review of the state of Antarcticas climate
4. LSU gets to the bottom of things -- in Antarctica
5. Antarctica glacier retreat creates new carbon dioxide store
6. Algae and pollen grains provide evidence of remarkably warm period in Antarcticas history
7. Unlikely life thriving at Antarcticas Blood Falls
8. Ancient ecosystem thrives millions of years below Antarctic glacier
9. UK robot sub searches for signs of melting 60 km into an Antarctic ice shelf cavity
10. Final frontier: Mission to explore buried ancient Antarctic lake given green light
11. CO2 drop and global cooling caused Antarctic glacier to form
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/27/2015)... -- Munich, Germany , October ... automatically maps data from mobile eye tracking videos created ... that they can be quantitatively analyzed with SMI,s analysis ... , October 28-29, 2015. SMI,s Automated Semantic Gaze ... tracking videos created with SMI,s Eye Tracking Glasses ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
(Date:10/22/2015)...  Synaptics (NASDAQ: SYNA ), a leading developer of human ... September 30, 2015. --> --> ... 66 percent over the comparable quarter last year to $470.0 million. ... million, or $0.62 per diluted share. --> ... of fiscal 2016 grew 39 percent over the prior year period ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... event of the year and one of the premier annual events for pharmaceutical ... ran from 8–11 November 2015, where ISPE hosted the largest number of attendees ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide ... Carolina , today announced that the company has set a ... a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 of 2014 ... and Mexico , with the establishment of ... December 2015. --> United Kingdom and ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and AdVenture Capital brought together dozens ... BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools. , Now, the top ... of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl 50, and an ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LEXINGTON, Massachusetts , November 24, 2015 ... Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual ... on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. ... Poulton , Chief Financial Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray ... City , NY on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: