23
Dec
14

Smelly Birds

When I was a boy we were always told that birds, with the exception of tubenoses (Albatross’, Petrels etc), didn’t have a developed sense of smell. A group of scientists in Toulouse and Vienna have been doing analysis of preen glands on Kittiwakes and they’ve found that this is not the case.

Apparently they have found that Kittiwakes are able to choose partners on the basis of their smell. There’s a group of chemicals correlated with a special group of genes called the “major histocompatiabilty complex,” or MHC, which helps individuals resist diseases. It has now been proven if Kittiwakes choose a mate that does not have a similar smell to itself then it will not be related and will have dissimilar MHC increasing its offspring’s resistance to disease. Well that tends to blow a hole in the textbooks doesn’t it?

Full details of the research are available at http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2014/love-at-first-smell-can-birds-choose-mates-by-their-odors/

Photo taken on our trip to the Farne Islands – East Coast Seabird Weekend – two places left in June 2015.

Kittiwakes_Z5A4236

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