IBIS | Volume 158 | Issue 4 | October 2016
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The latest issue of IBIS features 15 full papers, three short communications, a Viewpoint article and an Editorial from our Editor-in-Chief, Paul Donald.
In his Editorial, Paul outlines what our readers told us in our reader survey and how we are responding to these and to some of the challenges faced by a small society publisher. >> View Editorial
Here are four of the many highlights in this issue.
Possible effects of ingested lead gunshot on populations of ducks wintering in the UK
Rhys E. Green & Deborah J. Pain
Although the use of lead ammunition for shooting wildfowl and/or over listed wetlands in the UK has been banned, c. 70% of ducks shot in England (the only UK country with compliance monitoring) are still shot with lead and the proportion of ducks found dead with signs of lead poisoning from ingested gunshot has not declined significantly since the ban. While the environmental dangers of lead shot are widely acknowledged, it is not clear whether ingestion of spent shot by waterbirds causes their populations to decline. In this issue, Rhys Green of the RSPB and Cambridge University and Debbie Pain of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust present the first evidence that the quantity of spent shot ingested by different duck species is strongly negatively correlated with their population trends. The authors investigated alternative explanations for the observed patterns, but concluded that their findings may provide the first evidence that ingestion of spent shot directly impacts wildfowl populations by increasing mortality.
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Asymmetric interspecific aggression in New Guinean songbirds that replace one another along an elevational gradient
Benjamin G. Freeman, Alexandra M. Class Freeman & Wesley M. Hochachka
A common pattern in tropical bird communities is for closely related species to inhabit different but adjoining elevational distributions such that they replace one another along the elevational gradient. A long-standing hypothesis for this pattern is that different ranges are maintained by
interspecific aggression, but empirical tests of this hypothesis remain scarce. Now Ben Freeman and colleagues from Cornell University and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology provide evidence that this is indeed the case. Working on mountain rainforest species in New Guinea, and using playback experiments, they show that interspecific aggression is asymmetrical, species in lower elevation bands being more aggressive to their neighbours in adjacent higher bands than vice versa. Furthermore, this asymmetry was more pronounced in higher areas of the lower species, in other words where the two species meet. Furthermore, two species-pairs that did not exhibit interspecific aggression had narrow ‘no man’s land’ gaps between their elevational distributions, so they did not encounter one another. The results suggest that altitudinal zoning of closely related species is driven by asymmetrical aggression between adjacent species.
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Genetic structure among remnant populations of a migratory passerine, the Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
H. Herman van Oosten, Jakob C. Mueller, Jente Ottenburghs, Christiaan Both & Bart Kempenaers
The Northern Wheatear is one of many long-distance migratory species that has declined severely in number in Europe in recent decades. In the Netherlands, the species exists now in just a handful of small remnant population. In this paper, Herman van Oosten and colleagues show that even though this species is one of the world’s longest-distance migrants, there is such a high rate of site fidelity that there is almost no movement of birds between these remnant populations. Genetic evidence suggests that until quite recently the populations were interconnected, but that habitat fragmentation has effectively isolated these populations into small and isolated fragments. The very high degree of natal philopatry means that these small populations are likely to face a high risk of extinction through chance events and inbreeding. It thus appears that even in the world’s most mobile species, populations can become reproductively isolated over very short distances.
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High brood patch temperature of less colourful, less pheomelanic female Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica
Masaru Hasegawa, Emi Arai, Shosuke Ito & Kazumasa Wakamatsu
In birds, even a small difference in egg temperature can affect hatching success, incubation period and nestling quality. Female passerines develop brood patches to warm their eggs. Thus if there are traits, such as plumage ornamentation, that indicate optimal egg temperature, males might pair with females that exhibit those traits. In the first ever investigation into the relationship between brood patch temperature and plumage ornaments, Masura Hasegawa and colleagues assessed the relationship between brood patch temperature and a number of plumage ornaments, such as throat patch colour, tail length and the size of white tail spot. They recovered a significant relationship between brood patch temperature and throat colour, but not with tail length of tail spots, and suggest that some but not all ornaments might convey information on thermal investment during incubation.
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