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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Tristan Albatross chicks on Gough are doing well after the first bait drop against the island’s killer mice

Tristan Albatross 9 Tom McSherry

Yawning for the camera. A Tristan Albatross on Gough Island, photograph by Tom McSherry

To date, the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP) has completed the first bait drop over the island to eradicate the island’s albatross-killing mice and is waiting for good weather to undertake the required second drop.  In the interim researchers on the island have continued to monitor breeding by the Critically Endangered (and near-endemic) Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, as recently reported via the GIRP Facebook page.

“Our team just returned from two of our 11 Tristan Albatross monitoring sites– Gonydale and Tafelkop – and reported no nest failures since their last check!  This is literally unheard of at this time of year.  Even though we haven’t completed the second bait drop yet we can already get a sense of what life would be like on Gough without the mice.”

Watch a video as GIRP Researcher Michelle Risi imparts the news in front of a Tristan Albatross chick in the Tafelkop monitoring colony, first set up in the 1980s.

ACAP’s Information Officer has a particular interest in the fate of the Tristan Albatross on Gough.  He set up both long-term study colonies - on Tafelkop in the 1980s and in Gonydale in the 2006/07 and 2007/08 breeding seasons - when all the occupied nests in the two localities were staked and breeding adults metal and colour-banded during incubation, with their surviving chicks metal banded later in the year.  Monitoring has continued ever since with pairs of field workers being appointed on an annual basis.

Access the latest (No. 8, May 2021) and earlier editions of Island Restoration News, the GIRP newsletter here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 July 2021

Genomic study indicates the Southern Giant Petrel population went through a severe reduction in the early Pleistocene

Shary Weckwerth Southern Giant Petrel watercolour Michelle Risi

Southern Giant Petrel watercolour by Shary Weckwerth, from a photograph by Michelle Risi 

Sun-Hee Kim (Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Korea University, Seoul, Korea) and colleagues have published in the open access online journal Animals on the genome of the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The southern giant petrel Macronectes giganteus, a large seabird of the southern oceans, is one of only two members of the genus Macronectes and is the largest species in the order Procellariiformes [sic].  Although these two families [sic] account for the vast majority of the avian fauna inhabiting the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, studies on the status of some populations and the associated genetic data are currently extremely limited.  In this study, we assembled the genome of M. giganteus by integrating Pacific Biosciences single-molecule real-time sequencing and the Chromium system developed by 10x Genomics.  The final M. giganteus genome assembly was 1.248 Gb in size with a scaffold N50 length of 27.4 Mb and a longest scaffold length of 120.4 Mb.  The M. giganteus genome contains 14,993 predicted protein-coding genes and has 11.06% repeat sequences.  Estimated historical effective population size analysis indicated that the southern giant petrel underwent a severe reduction in effective population size during a period coinciding with the early Pleistocene.  The availability of this newly sequenced genome will facilitate more effective genetic monitoring of threatened species.  Furthermore, the genome will provide a valuable resource for gene functional studies and further comparative genomic studies on the life history and ecological traits of specific avian species.”

Reference:

Kim, S.-H., Lee, S.-J., Jo, E., Kim, J., Kim, J.-U., Kim, J.-H., Park, H. & Chi, Y.-M.  2021.  Genome of the Southern Giant Petrel assembled using third-generation DNA sequencing and linked reads reveals evolutionary traits of southern avian [sic].  Animals 11.  doi.org/10.3390/ani11072046.

John Cooper. ACAP Information Officer, 23 July 2021

Relocated Hawaiian Petrels commence breeding at Nihoku on Kauai behind a predator-proof fence

First Nihoku return 2020

The first translocated Hawaiian Petrel returns to Nihoku in May 2020, trail camera photograph by the Nihokū Ecosystem Restoration Project

ACAP Latest News has regularly reported on the efforts to establish a breeding colony of Endangered Hawaiian Petrels Pterodroma sandwichensis and Critically Endangered Newell’s Shearwaters Puffinus newellii at a lowland site protected by a predator-proof fence within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  Last year the first five Hawaiian Petrels that had been hand reared at Nihoku after translocation from the island’s mountainous interior were seen back prospecting at the site.  Now this year breeding has been confirmed for a single pair from the 2017 cohort that were first seen back at Nihoku in 2020. This season they laid an egg in June.  In addition, the first translocated Newell’s Shearwater has been back at the site this year

Nihoku

The fenced Nihoku restoration site from the air, photograph from the Nihokū Ecosystem Restoration Project

“After years at sea, the first ʻuaʻu, Hawaiian petrel, pair nests at Nihokū at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. These birds are the first of 110 translocated ʻuaʻu chicks to return and nest at the fence-protected area of Nihokū.  In 2020, trail camera footage and biologists confirmed that five ʻuaʻu were returning to the site while prospecting the area for nesting, an early sign that the young birds that fledged from Nihokū successfully imprinted on the site and would likely soon return to breed.  In addition to the returning ʻuaʻu pair now breeding at Nihokū, the first prospecting ʻaʻo, Newell’s shearwater, was recently observed on trail cameras at the site, confirming that both species have successfully imprinted on the translocation site. The project is part of a larger, island-wide effort to restore populations of ʻuaʻu and ʻaʻo, both threatened and culturally important species.

“We are beyond thrilled to have confirmed breeding of the first Hawaiian petrel pair in a predator-free location, after six years of translocations.  This marks a major milestone towards the recovery of this imperiled species, and we hope that it is the first of many such announcements,” - Dr. Lindsay Young, Executive Director - Pacific Rim Conservation.

Read more here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 July 2021

Hot dark wings believed to improve flight performance in gliding albatrosses and petrels

Amsterdam Albatross off Amsterdam Island 9  Kirk Zufelt s

A dark-winged Amsterdam Albatross off Amsterdam Island, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Svana Rogalla (Evolution and Optics of Nanostructures Group, Department of Biology, University of Ghent, Belgium) and colleagues have published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface on a phylogenetic analysis and wind tunnel experiments to show that the dark wings of seabirds (including those of albatrosses and petrels) improve flight efficiency when undergoing radiative heating.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Seabirds have evolved numerous adaptations that allow them to thrive under hostile conditions. Many seabirds share similar colour patterns, often with dark wings, suggesting that their coloration might be adaptive. Interestingly, these darker wings become hotter when birds fly under high solar irradiance, and previous studies on aerofoils have provided evidence that aerofoil surface heating can affect the ratio between lift and drag, i.e. flight efficiency. However, whether this effect benefits birds remains unknown. Here, we first used phylogenetic analyses to show that strictly oceanic seabirds with a higher glide performance (optimized by reduced sink rates, i.e. the altitude lost over time) have evolved darker wings, potentially as an additional adaptation to improve flight. Using wind tunnel experiments, we then showed that radiative heating of bird wings indeed improves their flight efficiency. These results illustrate that seabirds may have evolved wing pigmentation in part through selection for flight performance under extreme ocean conditions. We suggest that other bird clades, particularly long-distance migrants, might also benefit from this effect and therefore might show similar evolutionary trajectories. These findings may also serve as a guide for bioinspired innovations in aerospace and aviation, especially in low-speed regimes.”

Read an interview with the senior author of the study here.

With thanks to Janine Dunlop, Niven Librarian, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town.

Reference:

Rogalla, S., Nicolaï, M.P.J., Porchetta, S., Glabeke, G., Battistella, C., D'Alba, L., Gianneschi, N.C., van Beeck, J. & Shawkey, N.D. 2021.  The evolution of darker wings in seabirds in relation to temperature-dependent flight efficiency.  Journal of the Royal Society Interface doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2021.0236.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 July 2021

Documents are now online for ACAP’s 2021 Working Group meetings to be held virtually next month

 Lea Finke Pink footed Shearwater watercolour Peter Hodum

Pink-footed Shearwater, watercolour by Lea Finke, from a photograph by Peter Hodum

The Tenth Meeting of ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBG10) will be held as a virtual meeting from 17 to 19 August 2021 (AEST/UTC+10).  Likewise, the Sixth Meeting of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG6) will be held virtually from 24 -25 August 2021 (AEST/UTC+10).  Most Documents and Information Papers are now available on this website for both meetings.  Please note some of the documents are protected by passwords; summaries of their contents are, however, available for reading.

Documents for the virtual Twelfth Meeting of the ACAP Advisory Committee (AC12) will be posted to this website in the three ACAP official languages of English, French and Spanish  before the end of this month. The meeting will be held from 30/31 August to 1/2 September 2021.

See AC12 Circular 5 for more details of this year’s virtual meetings, including meeting times.

ACAP Secretariat. 20 July 2021