Pallid bands in feathers and associated stable isotope signatures reveal effects of severe weather stressors on fledgling sparrows

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Show simple item record Ross, J. D. Kelly, J. F. Bridge, E. S. Engel, M. H. Reinking, D. L. Boyle, Alice 2016-04-04T22:13:45Z 2016-04-04T22:13:45Z
dc.description Citation: Ross, J. D., Kelly, J. F., Bridge, E. S., Engel, M. H., Reinking, D. L., & Boyle, W. A. (2015). Pallid bands in feathers and associated stable isotope signatures reveal effects of severe weather stressors on fledgling sparrows. Peerj, 3, 21. doi:10.7717/peerj.814
dc.description In August 2013, we observed a high incidence (44%) of synchronous bands of reduced melanin (a type of fault bar we have termed "pallid bands") across the rectrices of juvenile Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodrammus savannarum) captured near El Reno, Oklahoma. Earlier that year, on May 31, the site was struck by a severe storm which rained hailstones exceeding 5.5 cm diameter and spawned an historic 4.2 km-wide tornado <8 km to the south of the site. We hypothesized that this stressor had induced the pallid bands. An assessment of Grasshopper Sparrow nesting phenology indicated that a large number of nestlings were likely growing tail feathers when the storm hit. The pallid bands were restricted to the distal half of feathers and their widths significantly increased as a function of distance from the tip (i.e., age at formation). We predicted that if stress had caused these pallid bands, then a spike in circulating delta N-15 originating from tissue catabolism during the stress response would have been incorporated into the developing feather. From 18 juveniles captured at the site in August we measured delta N-15 and delta C-13 stable isotope ratios within four to five 0.25-0.40 mg feather sections taken from the distal end of a tail feather; the pallid band, if present, was contained within only one section. After accounting for individual and across-section variation, we found support for our prediction that feather sections containing or located immediately proximal to pallid bands (i.e., the pallid band region) would show significantly higher delta N-15 than sections outside this region. In contrast, the feathers of juveniles with pallid bands compared to normal appearing juveniles showed significantly lower delta N-15. A likely explanation is that the latter individuals hatched after the May 31 storm and had consumed a trophically-shifted diet relative to juveniles with pallid bands. Considering this, the juveniles of normal appearance were significantly less abundant within our sample relative to expectations from past cohorts (z = -2.03; p = 0.042) and, in as much, suggested widespread nest losses during the storm. Severe weather events may represent major stressors to ground-nesting birds, especially for recent fledglings. We call for others to exploit opportunities to study the effects of severe weather when these rare but devastating stressors impact established field research sites.
dc.rights Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
dc.subject Disturbance Ecology
dc.subject Hail
dc.subject Ground-Nesting
dc.subject Stress Response
dc.subject Severe
dc.subject Storm
dc.title Pallid bands in feathers and associated stable isotope signatures reveal effects of severe weather stressors on fledgling sparrows
dc.type Article 2015
dc.citation.doi 10.7717/peerj.814
dc.citation.issn 2167-8359
dc.citation.jtitle Peerj
dc.citation.spage 21
dc.citation.volume 3
dc.contributor.authoreid aboyle

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Except where otherwise noted, the use of this item is bound by the following: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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