Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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Today is International Cat Day, so what about albatrosses?

Quite a few animals, or groups of animals, mainly for conservation purposes, have a "world day", some better known than others (think elephants, rhinos, tigers and penguins to name just a few).  Today marks International Cat Day, "created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).  International Cat Day is also referred to as World Cat Day in some countries and since its inception, it has been growing worldwide".

 Albatrosses will soon be joining this fraternity, when World Albatross Day is inaugurated on 19 June next year, the date in 2001 when the Albatross and Petrel Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia (click here).

To increase awareness of World Albatross Day, ACAP will be making regular postings to its website and to its Facebook page in the run up to its inauguration.  Some of these posts have already commenced, such as the quotes in support from distinguished albatross researchers and others that are appearing weekly on this site's home page.  A 'banner challenge' has also been issued with seabird researchers on Gough Island kicking off with their home-made banner displayed at the edge of a study colony of Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena.  Meanwhile, several artists are designing logos and posters to help advertise the day.

One artist who has helped ACAP in the past is Portugal-based Marc Parchow Figueiredo with his Qual Albatroz comic strip.  At ACAP's request he has halted a recent break in drawing albatrosses to produce a new three-part cartoon series on the theme of World Albatross Day.  So, here is the first one in the series:

 

You will have to wait a few days to see how Marc's iconic albatrosses end their discussion on World Cat Day here in ACAP Latest News: it will be worth it!

ACAP is hugely grateful to Marc who has always allowed his Qual Albatroz cartoons to be used pro bono by ACAP in the cause of albatross conservation.  His continued interest and support are even more remarkable as he has informed ACAP's Information Albatross that he has yet to see a live albatross!

Click here for more Qual Albatroz cartoons posted by ACAP.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 August 2019

Plastic ingestion affects blood chemistry and size of Flesh-footed Shearwaters

Jennifer Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Battery Point, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on the sublethal effects of ingested plastic in the ACAP-candidate species and globally Near Threatened Flesh-footed Shearwater Ardenna carneipes.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Pollution of the environment with plastic debris is a significant and rapidly expanding threat to biodiversity due to its abundance, durability, and persistence. Current knowledge of the negative effects of debris on wildlife is largely based on consequences that are readily observed, such as entanglement or starvation. Many interactions with debris, however, result in less visible and poorly documented sublethal effects, and as a consequence, the true impact of plastic is underestimated. We investigated the sublethal effects of ingested plastic in Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes) using blood chemistry parameters as a measure of bird health. The presence of plastic had a significant negative effect on bird morphometrics and blood calcium levels and a positive relationship with the concentration of uric acid, cholesterol, and amylase. That we found blood chemistry parameters being related to plastic pollution is one of the few examples to date of the sublethal effects of marine debris and highlights that superficially healthy individuals may still experience the negative consequences of ingesting plastic debris. Moving beyond crude measures, such as reduced body mass, to physiological parameters will provide much needed insight into the nuanced and less visible effects of plastic.”

 

Flesh-footed Shearwaters on Lord Howe Island, photograph by Ian Hutton

Read a press release and a popular article on the pubication.

 

Reference:

Lavers, J.L., Hutton, I. & Bond, A.L. 2019.  Clinical pathology of plastic ingestion in marine birds and relationships with blood chemistry.  Environmental Science & Technology  doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b02098.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 August 2019

"Tiny" albatross from the past thought to have eaten fish

Gerald May (Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany) and Alan Tennyson describe open access a small fossil albatross with what is thought to be a narrow fish-eating bill in the journal Ibis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We describe a nearly complete, three‐dimensionally preserved skull of a new albatross species from the late Pliocene (3.0–3.4 million years ago) Tangahoe Formation of New Zealand. Aldiomedes angustirostris, n. gen. et sp. has only about 90% of the length of the skull of the smallest extant albatross and is the geologically youngest record of a small‐sized albatross known to date. The new species is characterized by a mediolaterally compressed beak, which is not found in any living albatross. The small size and some cranial features of A. angustirostris indicate that, in spite of its comparatively young geological age, the new species was not part of crown group Diomedeidae. We hypothesize that A. angustirostris was more piscivorous than extant albatrosses, which predominantly feed on squid. The reasons for the extinction of smaller‐sized albatrosses are elusive but may be related to changes in seabird fauna during the Pliocene epoch, which witnessed the radiation of various non‐procellariiform seabird groups.”

The fossil skull of the new species (above) in comparison to that of the extant Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes (below)

Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl

Read a popular account on the publication; also here.

Reference:

Mayr, G. & Tennyson, A.J.D. 2019.  A small, narrow-beaked albatross from the Pliocene of New Zealand demonstrates a higher past diversity in the feeding ecology of the Diomedeidae. Ibis.  DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12757.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 August 2019

Trace metals in Scopoli's Shearwaters from Greece

Marios-Dimitrios Voulgaris (Centre for Marine and Environmental Research, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Science of the Total Environment on trace metal levels in the blood of Scopoli's Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“In this study, the concentrations of cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), chromium(Cr), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn) were investigated in the blood of Scopoli's shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea).  Blood samples (N=238) were collected from both juvenile and adult individuals during seven breeding seasons between 2007 and 2014, excluding 2013.  Sampling was performed in the pristine environment of the Strofades island complex, Greece, where the largest colony of Scopoli's shearwaters is located in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.  The median concentrations of the toxic metals, Cd and Pb, were 0.010 and 0.24 μg/g (dry weight; dw), respectively, which were in good agreement with previous studies.  The median concentrations of Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Zn were 0.18, 1.11, 3.41, 0.29, 0.61, and 22.9 μg/g dw, respectively.  Inter-annual differences were observed among the concentrations of all assessed metals, except for Ni and Cd, which demonstrated similarities among female individuals.  Age-group related differences were observed in both genders for Cd, Cu and Cr, but only among males for Zn.  To the best of our knowledge, this is the longest multi-year biomonitoring study of select trace metals that has been conducted thus far on blood samples from Scopoli's shearwater species.”

Scopoli's Shearwater and chick, Strofades Islands, Greece; photograph from Georgios Karris

With thanks to Georgios Karris.

Reference:

Voulgaris, M.-D., Karris, K., Xirouchakis, S, Zaragoza Pedro, P., Asimakopoulos, A.G., Grivas, K. & Bebinno, M.J. 2019.  Trace metal blood concentrations in Scopoli's shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) during 2007–2014: A systematic analysis of the largest species colony in Greece.  Science of the Total Environment 691: 187-194.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 August 2019

Flesh-footed Shearwaters also ingest plastic particles below one millimetre in size

Jennifer Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Battery Point, Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on detecting ultrafine plastics ingested by globally Near Threatened Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carneipes.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Plastic debris is a major global threat to marine ecosystems and species.  However, our knowledge of this issue may be incomplete due to a lack of a standardized method for quantifying ingested ultrafine particles (1 μm – 1 mm) in wildlife. This study provides the first quantification of ultrafine plastic in seabirds using chemical and biological digestion treatments to extract plastic items from seabird gizzards. The alkaline agent, potassium hydroxide, outperformed the enzyme corolase, based on cost and efficiency (e.g., digestion time). Ultrafine plastics were observed in 7.0% of Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes) gizzards collected from Lord Howe Island, Australia and accounted for 3.6% of all plastic items recovered (13 out of 359 items). Existing methods for extracting ingested plastic from seabirds do not account for ultrafine particles, therefore our results indicate current seabird plastic loads, and the associated physical and biological impacts, are underestimated.”

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Read a popular account of the publication here.

Reference:

Lavers, J.L., Stivaktakis, G., Hutton, I. & Bond, A.L. 2019.  Detection of ultrafine plastics ingested by seabirds using tissue digestion.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 142: 470-474.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 August 2019

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