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Karsten Laursen

Allocation of body reserves during winter in eider Somataeria mollissima as preparation for spring migration and reproduction

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  • Karsten Laursen
  • Anders Pape Møller, Université Paris-Sud 11
  • ,
  • Lars Haugaard
  • Markus Öst, Abo Akad Univ, Abo Akademi University, Novia University of Applied Sciences
  • ,
  • Jouni Vainio, Finnish Meteorological Institute - FMI

Capital breeders, such as the eider duck Somateria mollissima, accumulate resources before the start of breeding. Eiders preferentially feed on blue mussels Mytilus edulis to build up body condition during winter. We explored how body condition and gizzard mass of wintering eiders relate to mussel quality and quantity, winter climate and body condition of females at the breeding grounds. Body condition during winter (defined as scaled body mass index) of eiders increased during winter and the magnitude of the effect depended on age and mussel quality. Gizzard mass of eiders increased during winter with effects of mussel quality, mussel stocks and sex. Body condition in winter of adult females increased from the first half of January to the second half of February on average by 1.5%, equal to c. 96 g. During the same period gizzard mass of adult females increased by 12.2%, i.e., a nearly ten-fold increase compared to that observed in body condition in winter. Body condition of females at the breeding grounds in Finland (defined as body condition at hatching) was significantly positively correlated with gizzard mass in winter, but not significantly correlated with body condition in winter. Thus, eiders allocate body reserves to increase gizzard mass but less so to increase body condition in winter. This can be considered an adaptive migratory strategy of these eiders, whereby large winter (pre-migratory) gizzards increase food processing capacity, making it possible for eiders to arrive at the breeding grounds with superior body condition and a high reproductive potential.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

    Research areas

  • Blue mussel, Body condition in winter, Gizzard mass, Mussel quality, Mussel stocks, Somateria mollissima, Winter climate

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