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Switch to diester preen waxes may reduce avian nest predation by mammalian predators using olfactory cues

By J. Reneerkens, Th. Piersma and J.S. Sinninghe Damsté


It has long been recognised that nest depredation by\ud olfactory-searching mammals greatly influences the\ud reproductive success of ground-nesting birds. Yet\ud adaptations of birds to diminish smell during nesting have\ud rarely been investigated. Recently, a remarkable shift in\ud the composition of uropygial gland secretions (preen\ud waxes) was discovered in many ground-nesting shorebirds\ud and ducks that begin incubation, during which the usual\ud mixtures of monoester preen waxes are replaced by\ud mixtures of less volatile diester waxes. In this study we\ud show experimentally that an olfactory-searching dog had greater difficulty detecting mixtures of the less volatile\ud diesters than mixtures of monoesters. This is consistent\ud with the hypothesis that diester preen waxes reduce birds’\ud smell and thereby reduce predation risk

Topics: Aardwetenschappen, uropygial gland, preen wax, camouflage, olfaction, nest predation, sandpiper, Calidris canutus
Year: 2005
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