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Seasonal changes in moult, body mass and reproductive condition in siskins Carduelis spinus exposed to daylength regimes simulating different latitudes

By Ian Newton and Alistair Dawson

Abstract

Birds use change in daylength during the year to time events during their annual cycles. Individual Eurasian siskins Carduelis spinus can breed and winter in widely separated areas in different years. Birds at different latitudes will experience different changes in photoperiod. So how does latitude affect photoperiodic control? Our aim in this study was to find whether siskins caught from the wild in Britain and exposed to different photoperiodic regimes, typical of widely separated latitudes, would differ in the subsequent timing and duration of their moults and associated processes. Siskins were caught in late February and early March, and initially kept outside on natural photoperiods. From the spring equinox (21 March), they were divided into three groups kept under photoperiodic regimes that simulated latitudes 40º, 55º and 70º N respectively. All three groups showed highly significant subsequent changes in body mass, fat scores and cloacal protuberance size. Moult of the primary feathers started during June – August (mean 9 July), and lasted 61-99 days (mean 75 days). Birds that started to moult late in the season had shorter moult durations. All individuals showed lower mass and fat levels during moult than before or after moult. Crucially, there were no significant differences in the timing of these events between the three photoperiodic groups. Apparently these birds did not use prevailing absolute photoperiod or the prevailing rate of change in photoperiod to time moult-related seasonal events, but used instead some other feature of the annual photoperiod cycle or some form of interval timer linked to photoperiod

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Wiley
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05249.x
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:13466

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