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Concept: Pelecaniformes


Conflict arises in fisheries worldwide when piscivorous birds target fish species of commercial value. This paper presents a method for estimating size selectivity functions for piscivores and uses it to compare predation selectivities of Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis L. 1758) with that of gill-net fishing on a European perch (Perca fluviatilis L. 1758) population in the Curonian Lagoon, Lithuania. Fishers often regard cormorants as an unwanted “satellite species”, but the degree of direct competition and overlap in size-specific selectivity between fishers and cormorants is unknown. This study showed negligible overlap in selectivity between Great Cormorants and legal-sized commercial nets. The selectivity estimation method has general application potential for use in conjunction with population dynamics models to assess fish population responses to size-selective fishing from a wide range of piscivorous predators.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Perch, Cormorant, Population dynamics of fisheries, Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax, Pelecaniformes


The population of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo has increased markedly in Europe in the last 30 years, creating conflicts primarily with fisheries interests. Some advocate that there should be a reduction in bird numbers on anything from local to regional and pan-European levels. The effect of attempts to reduce cormorant numbers by shooting to kill and by shooting to reinforce the scaring of birds in two Danish fjords was studied.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Penguin, Cormorant, Pelican, Sulidae, Great Cormorant, Pelecaniformes


Prolonged pair bonds have the potential to improve reproductive performance of socially monogamous animals by increasing pair familiarity and enhancing coordination and cooperation between pair members. However, this has proved very difficult to test robustly because of important confounds such as age and reproductive experience. Here, we address limitations of previous studies and provide a rigorous test of the mate familiarity effect in the socially monogamous blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii, a long-lived marine bird with a high divorce rate. Taking advantage of a natural disassociation between age and pair bond duration in this species, and applying a novel analytical approach to a 24 year database, we found that those pairs which have been together for longer establish their clutches five weeks earlier in the season, hatch more of their eggs and produce 35% more fledglings, regardless of age and reproductive experience. Our results demonstrate that pair bond duration increases individual fitness and further suggest that synergistic effects between a male and female’s behaviour are likely to be involved in generating a mate familiarity effect. These findings help to explain the age- and experience-independent benefits of remating and their role in life-history evolution.

Concepts: Male, Seabird, Divorce, Sulidae, Sula, Boobies, Blue-footed Booby, Pelecaniformes


In-air hearing in birds has been thoroughly investigated. Sound provides birds with auditory information for species and individual recognition from their complex vocalizations, as well as cues while foraging and for avoiding predators. Some 10% of existing species of birds obtain their food under the water surface. Whether some of these birds make use of acoustic cues while underwater is unknown. An interesting species in this respect is the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), being one of the most effective marine predators and relying on the aquatic environment for food year round. Here, its underwater hearing abilities were investigated using psychophysics, where the bird learned to detect the presence or absence of a tone while submerged. The greatest sensitivity was found at 2 kHz, with an underwater hearing threshold of 71 dB re 1 μPa rms. The great cormorant is better at hearing underwater than expected, and the hearing thresholds are comparable to seals and toothed whales in the frequency band 1-4 kHz. This opens up the possibility of cormorants and other aquatic birds having special adaptations for underwater hearing and making use of underwater acoustic cues from, e.g., conspecifics, their surroundings, as well as prey and predators.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Sound, Cormorant, Sulidae, Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax, Pelecaniformes


A new quill mite species of the family Syringophilidae (Acariformes: Prostigmata: Cheyletoidea) is described from Phimosus infuscatus (Lichtenstein) (Pelecaniformes: Threskiornithidae) in Argentina. Selenonycha insperata n. sp. differs from other species of the genus Selenonycha Kethley, 1970 by the presence of wing-like cuticular projections of coxal fields III-IV situated in front of trochanters (vs absence). An unexpected finding of this species on a bird of the family Threskiornithidae (Pelecaniformes) is discussed as an example of host shift. Additionally, a key to the species of the genus is provided.

Concepts: Biology, Species, Order, Kingdom, Threskiornithidae, Pelecaniformes, Bare-faced Ibis, Phimosus


Hearing thresholds of a great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) were measured in air and under water using psychophysics. The lowest thresholds were at 2 kHz (45 dB re 20 μPa root-mean-square [rms] in air and 79 dB re 1 μPa rms in water). Auditory brainstem response measurements on one anesthetized bird in air indicated an audiogram with a shape that resembled the one achieved by psychophysics. This study suggests that cormorants have rather poor in-air hearing abilities compared with other similar-size birds. The hearing capabilities in water are better than what would have been expected for a purely in-air adapted ear.

Concepts: Bird, Auditory brainstem response, Seabird, Cormorant, Sulidae, Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax, Pelecaniformes


Mercury and selenium concentrations were measured in double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), piscivorous fish, and common prey items in five lakes in two ecoregions in Saskatchewan, Canada. Hg and Se concentrations in cormorants were within the natural ranges of birds living in un-impacted sites. Site explained a significant proportion of the variation in total Hg (THg) and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations in both cormorant breast muscle and livers. Birds nesting on more northern lakes in the Boreal Plain ecoregion (THg range 0.11-1.06 and 0.26-9.27 μg g(-1) wet weight, for breast and liver respectively) had lower THg concentrations compared to those from lakes in the Prairie ecoregion (THg range 0.60-4.26 μg g(-1) ww and 1.59-25.11 μg g(-1), for breast and liver respectively). Concentrations of MeHg in livers was also lower in birds from northern sites (0.06-1.15 μg g(-1) ww) compared to those from prairie sites (0.22-4.06 μg g(-1) ww). We documented a wide range of %MeHg in livers (4.5-52 %), indicative of detoxifying MeHg via demethylation to inorganic Hg. Our data suggest that the threshold value where demethylation rates increase substantially appears to be ~10 μg g(-1) ww MeHg, similar to thresholds in other wildlife. Molar ratios of Hg:Se suggests that some birds from highly saline Reed Lake in the prairie region had insufficient Se available to bind to Hg, thereby removing Se binding as a mitigative strategy for high Hg levels for these birds.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Cormorant, Sulidae, Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax, Pelecaniformes, Double-crested Cormorant


Phylogenetic trees are a starting point for the study of further evolutionary and ecological questions. We show that for avian evolutionary relationships, improved taxon sampling, longer sequences and additional data sets are giving stability to the prediction of the grouping of pelecaniforms and ciconiiforms, thus allowing inferences to be made about long-term niche occupancy. Here we report the phylogeny of the pelecaniform birds and their water-carnivore allies using complete mitochondrial genomes, and show that the basic groupings agree with nuclear sequence phylogenies, even though many short branches are not yet fully resolved. In detail, we show that the Pelecaniformes (minus the tropicbird) and the Ciconiiformes (storks, herons and ibises) form a natural group within a seabird water-carnivore clade. We find pelicans are the closest relatives of the shoebill (in a clade with the hammerkop), and we confirm that tropicbirds are not pelecaniforms. In general, the group appears to be an adaptive radiation into an ‘aquatic carnivore’ niche that it has occupied for 60-70 million years. From an ecological and life history perspective, the combined pelecaniform-ciconiform group is more informative than focusing on differences in morphology. These findings allow a start to integrating molecular evolution and macroecology.

Concepts: Evolution, Bird, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Cormorant, Stork, Pelecaniformes


Contracaecum spasskii Mozgovoi, 1950, collected from the great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus (Linnaeus) (Podicipediformes: Podicipedidae), is redescribed using both light and, for the first time, scanning electron microscopy. Contracaecum spasskii differs from its congeners by having marked transverse cuticular annulations, the length of the oesophagus and spicules, the ratio between the intestinal caecum and the ventricular appendix, the number and arrangement of male caudal papillae, and especially by the particular morphology of the lips and interlabia. Some previously unreported morphological features of C. spasskii are also revealed and others corrected. Contracaecum rudolphii Hartwich, 1964 (sensu lato) is also redescribed based on the specimens collected from the great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis (Blumenbach) (Pelecaniformes: Phalacrocoracidae) from China. Based on the geographical perspective, the present Chinese material may represent the species C. rudolphii B.

Concepts: Bird, Cormorant, Grebe, Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax, Podiceps, Great Crested Grebe, Pelecaniformes