Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

DNA Tests Point To Extinction Of Arctic Bird Populations

Date:
July 28, 2004
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Two populations of rock ptarmigan from opposite ends of North America are in danger of disappearing permanently if conservation and management practices aren’t changed, says Queen’s Biology Professor Bob Montgomerie.

Kingston, ON -- A Queen’s biologist is calling upon the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to add a well-known arctic bird to Canada’s list of species at risk.

Two populations of rock ptarmigan from opposite ends of North America are in danger of disappearing permanently if conservation and management practices aren’t changed, says Biology Professor Bob Montgomerie.

His research team uses DNA analysis to show that both populations – one in Newfoundland’s highland ranges and the other in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain – are genetically distinct from all other rock ptarmigan and should be considered separate species.

“Traditional classifications often fail to capture the diversity and evolutionary history of organisms below the level of species,” Dr. Montgomerie explains. “If we consider these populations to be distinct species, they would deserve immediate preservation under the Species at Risk Act, changing management policy on both islands and hunting practices on Newfoundland.”

Currently there are 19 “endangered” and seven “threatened” bird species in Canada. Three distinct bird species are known to have become extinct in North America since 1900.

The study will be published in an upcoming edition of the Canadian Journal of Zoology. Also on the team, from the Queen’s Biology Department, are researchers Karen Holder and Vickie Friesen.

Although not endangered in other arctic regions, the rock ptarmigan populations identified in this study are definitely at risk, say the researchers. In the Aleutian Islands this is due to foxes that were introduced in the 18th century for fur farming, while in Newfoundland the birds are hunted by people as small game.

“Reclassification of these two populations should immediately move them into the ‘species at risk’ category, and thus afford them the protection they need,” says Dr. Montgomerie.

In another rock ptarmigan study with Drs. Holder and Bruce Lyon of the University of California, Dr. Montgomerie is resolving the mystery of why ptarmigan males delay molting from their winter plumage each spring: an unusual pattern in birds. When the snow melts away from the tundra, their white winter plumage stands out against the darker landscape, making them much more conspicuous to predators. (Female ptarmigan change to a mottled brown colour a month earlier than males.)

The researchers conclude that brighter-plumaged males are more attractive to females and thus have more mating opportunities, leading to greater reproductive success. Male ptarmigan will soil their feathers, providing instant camouflage, once their mates have begun laying eggs – and this camouflage is reversible if the female loses her eggs or is unable to fertilize them.

Dr. Montgomerie’s arctic research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Arctic Institute of North America, and a Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "DNA Tests Point To Extinction Of Arctic Bird Populations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040727083637.htm>.
Queen's University. (2004, July 28). DNA Tests Point To Extinction Of Arctic Bird Populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040727083637.htm
Queen's University. "DNA Tests Point To Extinction Of Arctic Bird Populations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040727083637.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins