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Adaptations for Breeding in Atlantic Alcids

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For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

A long-term research-project on divergent adaptations of four auk species breeding on Vedöy (Norway) is presented. By systematic descriptions and measurements it has been shown that the breeding sites of Guillemots, Razorbills, Black Guillemots and Puffins differ in characteristics as light intensity, shelter, slope and soil structure, distance from abyss and to neighbours etc. Consequently the breeding conditions differ : in Guillemots on their densely populated and narrow cliff ledges neighbours may compete for the possession of eggs, eggs and chicks may fall off, they may be soiled and are endangered by conspecifics and by predators. The birds of the other species breed in crevices or caves, where eggs and chicks are better protected. Special demands in those species are: Puffin chicks in burrows have to orientate in the dark; Black Guillemot chicks have to adjust their behaviour to a sibling. Field observations and experiments showed the following adaptations in Guillemots: the marked colour polymorphism of the eggs, the incubating behaviour reducing the risk of an egg rolling away, the resting position of the chicks, and their reaction to the parent's acceptance-calls, their use of action space in that they move to the rock wall, and the feeding ceremony co-adapted between parents and young. Puffin chicks are adapted to find food in the dark by feeling the ground with the bill. Black Guillemots determine dominance relations between the siblings soon after hatching. The experiments showed that the individual's adaptiveness results from interaction of phylogenetic adaptation, adaptive modification and latent learning.

Affiliations: 1: (Ethologische Station Hasli des Zoologischen Instituts der Universität Bern, Wohlenstr. 50a, 3032 Hinterkappelen, Switzerland


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