Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Blue-Footed Boobies’ Survival Threatened

23.04.2014

Blue-footed Boobies are on the decline in the Galápagos.

A new study appearing in the journal “Avian Conservation and Ecology” indicates numbers of the iconic birds, known for their bright blue feet and propensity to burst into dance to attract mates, have fallen more than 50 percent in less than 20 years.


David Anchundia

The drastic drop in population is probably due to an unexplained disappearance of sardines from the Boobies’ diet, said Dave Anderson, a professor of biology at Wake Forest University and the study’s principal investigator. This in turn has adult Boobies electing not to breed. Without breeding, old birds die and are not replaced by new young adults, and the population shrinks.

Where did all the Boobies go?

Scientists started noticing a strange trend at the Galápagos’ 10 or so Blue-footed Booby breeding colonies in 1997. The colonies were simply empty.

“Until 1997, there were literally thousands of boobies’ at these breeding sites and hundreds of nests full of hatching chicks,” Anderson said. “Then suddenly, the Boobies just weren’t there. There were a few cases where we found isolated breeding attempts but most of these didn’t produce chicks.”

At first, seabird ecologists thought the lack of breeding was an isolated occurrence. Environmental conditions in the wild can be variable and maybe it was just a few bad years. However, after three years of little to no breeding activity, Anderson said he and his colleagues began to worry.

“That was the start of the conversation,” he said. “We started to ask ourselves, ‘Is something weird going on with the Blue-foots?’”

In 2011, Anderson and Colorado state seabird biologist Kate Huyvaert, one of Anderson’s former graduate students, received funding from the Galápagos Conservancy, Swiss Friends of Galápagos, and Galápagos Conservation Trust to begin a comprehensive survey of Blue-footed Boobies in the Galápagos. From May 2011 to June 2013, a field team led by graduate student David Anchundia monitored breeding at three to five month intervals at four of the largest Blue-Footed Booby breeding colonies. The results of their study show little to no breeding activity and only 134 fledgling birds during the period.

“It was alarming,” Anderson said. “This was a drastic change from the 1980s and 1990s, when young Blue-foots were common throughout the archipelago.”

In addition, the research team estimated a total population of approximately 6,423 Boobies in 2012, less than a third of the only other estimate, from the 1960s.

Electing not to breed

The researchers suspect a lack of sardines, a highly nutritious and easy to find source of food, is the culprit behind the birds’ nose-diving population for a number of reasons.

Previous studies conducted at booby colonies on Española show successful breeding occurs only when the birds had an almost 100 percent sardine diet. Over the course of the recent Galápagos study sardines represented less than half of the Boobies’ diet.

This suggests the birds find their current, low sardine diet sufficient to live but insufficient to breed successfully. “We think the main factor behind the decline is a scarcity of food,” Huyvaert said. “Whether that’s natural or linked to anthropogenic change, we aren’t sure.”

So now the question is, where are the sardines, said Johannah Barry, president of the Galápagos Conservancy, which provided funding for the study. “Are they being overfished, are they leaving Galapagos waters due to climate change or other pressures?” she said. “If they are leaving what other fauna might be impacted?”

Anderson said further investigation is important now rather than later due to the fact that the Boobies’ perennial lack of breeding for the better part of two decades means that young birds are not replacing old ones. The majority of their population in the Galápagos must be nearing elderly ages where raising offspring will become hard, if not impossible.

“We have a convenient explanation that isn’t anthropogenic,” Anderson said. “But if humans are in fact contributing to this decline we need to get to the bottom of it now rather than five years down the road when you have the equivalent of 75-year old humans trying to breed.”

Contact Information

Will Ferguson
Asst. Director, News and Communications
Wake Forest University
ferguswg@wfu.edu
509.954.2912

Will Ferguson | newswise
Further information:
http://www.wfu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>