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Why Seychelles Warblers fail to recolonize nearby islands: unwilling or unable to fly there?

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The Seychelles Warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis is a rare island endemic which, from 1920 to 1988, occurred only on Cousin Island (29 ha) in the Seychelles. Despite the saturated nature of this population and the possibility of obtaining higher reproductive success on new nearby islands, inter-island dispersal by Seychelles Warblers is extremely rare (0.10%). We test the hypothesis that Seychelles Warblers show an adaptation typical for island birds: a low-cost reduced-size flight apparatus. We compared the anatomy of the flight apparatus (wing shape, wing loading, skeletal parts and musculature) of Seychelles Warblers with that of three closely related migratory Acrocephalus species (Eurasian Reed Warbler A. scirpaceus, Australian Reed Warbler A. australis and African Reed Warbler A. baeticatus). Seychelles Warblers do not differ from the migratory warblers in pectoral mass and skeletal attachment area relative to body mass, wing shape and wing loading. Seychelles Warblers show the morphological structures required for sustained flight, but may have the behavioural reluctance to cross what they may regard as extensive bodies of water.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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