Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Gaining weight, losing weight: growth pattern of the Wandering Albatross explained

Carlos Teixeira (Instituto Superior Técnico, Departamento de Engenharia Mecânica I, Área Científica de Ambiente e Energia, Lisbon, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Sea Research on the growth pattern of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) and other seabirds exhibit a growing pattern that includes a period of body mass decrease before fledging.  Several hypotheses have been suggested to explain it without success.  We hypothesized that: 1) chicks and adults have similar metabolic traits regulating assimilation, growth and maturation; 2) there is a difference in locomotion effort between chicks and adults, and 3) chicks are exposed to a decline in food availability before fledging.  This set of hypotheses allows for an energy surplus to be available and stored in reserve during the first months of development, explaining the mass recession that starts before fledging and the fact that adults keep a lower weight than fledglings, throughout the rest of their life span.  To test this set of hypotheses we applied the Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory.  Using a small set of life-history traits and growth curves we parameterized the DEB standard model.  We confirmed this set of hypotheses and estimated the pattern of decline in food availability that explains mass recession. An assessment of the daily energy intake was also performed.  The implications related to that energy flux and diet composition are discussed based on current knowledge. The DEB model for the Wandering Albatross also provided estimates for the adult daily food ingested by adults (464.06 kJ kg- 1d- 1), fasting capacity (25 d), Field Metabolic Rate (4.29 W kg- 1) and Resting Metabolic Rate (2.87 W kg- 1).  These values are consistent with the averages obtained in the field, suggesting that DEB may be useful to provide good estimations on a broader scale.”

Wandering Albatross and chick, photograph by Genevieve Jones


Teixeira, C.M.G.L., Sousa, T., Marques, G.M., Domingos, T. & Kooijman, S.A.L. 2014.  A new perspective on the growth pattern of the Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) through DEB theory.  Journal of Sea Research  DOI: 10.1016/j.seares.2014.06.006.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 July 2014

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