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Morphological and physiological aspects of takeoff aptitudes of female common eiders (Somateria mollissima) during the pre-laying period

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Abstract:

In many bird species, follicular growth and the accumulation of body reserves may impair flight takeoff capability of breeding females. The pre-laying period in common eiders, Somateria mollissima (L., 1758), is characterized by a dramatic sex-specific takeoff impairment, and we tested the hypothesis that pre-laying female common eiders compensate to diminish or delay their takeoff impairment. We addressed our question at three organizational levels: (1) measurement of wing morphology, (2) mass of flight musculature, and (3) measurement of the activity of key enzymes of aerobic and glycolytic capacity in one locomotor muscle and one structural muscle. All measurements were performed on individuals of both sexes. We found that wing area was similar between sexes despite males being structurally larger. Our results also indicate that female mass gain is partly compensated by higher pectoralis mass, while the catalytic capacity of the tissue remains unchanged. We conclude that females diminish and delay their takeoff impairment differently according to organizational levels.

Chez plusieurs espèces aviaires, la croissance folliculaire ainsi que l’accumulation de réserves corporelles peuvent réduire l’aptitude à l’envol des femelles reproductrices. Un cas extrême de ce handicap d’envol est observable chez les femelles eiders à duvet, Somateria mollissima (L., 1758), durant la période de pré-ponte. Nous avons testé l’hypothèse stipulant que les femelles ont recours à des mesures de compensation afin de retarder ce handicap et d’en atténuer les effets. Nous avons abordé la question à trois niveaux d’organisation, soit par la mesure de (1) la morphologie alaire, (2) la masse de la musculature de vol et (3) l’activité d’enzymes-clés des capacités aérobie et glycolytique d’un muscle locomoteur et d’un muscle structural. Toutes les mesures ont été effectuées sur des individus des deux sexes. Nous avons découvert que la superficie alaire est semblable chez les sexes malgré le fait que les mâles soient structurellement plus gros. Nos résultats révèlent aussi que le gain de masse corporelle des femelles est partiellement compensé par une croissance du muscle pectoralis mais que la capacité catalytique de ce dernier demeure stable. Nous concluons que les femelles retardent leur handicap et en atténuent les effets différemment selon les niveaux d’organisation.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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