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Data from: Does water temperature affect the timing and duration of remigial moult in sea ducks? An experimental approach

Citation

Viain, Anouck; Guillemette, Magella (2017), Data from: Does water temperature affect the timing and duration of remigial moult in sea ducks? An experimental approach, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1ct66

Abstract

Aquatic birds have high cost of thermoregulation, especially during the moulting period, yet the effect of water temperature on the moulting strategy of aquatic birds has rarely been studied. Our general hypothesis is that energy savings associated with lower thermoregulation costs would be allocated to moulting processes. We predicted that aquatic birds moulting in warm water would have a higher level of body reserves, a faster growth rate of feathers, and an earlier remigial moult onset compared with birds moulting in cold water. We used the common eider (Somateria mollissima dresseri), a large sea duck, as the model species. Captive individuals were experimentally exposed to warm (18 °C) and cold (8 °C) water treatments during a three year period with individuals swapped between treatments. We found a similar feather growth rate for the two water temperature treatments and in contrast to our predictions, eiders exposed to warm water had a lower body mass and showed a delayed onset of remigial moult of approximately 7 days compared with those exposed to cold water. Our data indicate that body mass variations influence the timing of moult in unexpected ways and we suggest that it likely controls the occurrence of wing moult through a hormonal cascade. This study emphasizes the importance of improving our knowledge of the effects of water temperature on remigial moult of aquatic birds, to better assert the potential effects of global warming on their survival.

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