Seasonal changes in the preen wax composition of the Herring gull Larus argentatusReportar como inadecuado

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, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 127–139

First Online: 19 July 2017Received: 24 January 2017Accepted: 09 July 2017


The preen gland produces oily secretion, which smeared onto a bird’s plumage improves its maintenance. The main components of the secretion are waxes, and its composition often changes during the year. The aim of this study was to determine the differences in the chemical composition of preen waxes in adult herring gulls Larus argentatus, captured in Poland in winter and in the breeding season. Preen gland secretions of herring gulls consist of monoester waxes, composed of about 29 saturated C7–C16 fatty acids and about 51 saturated C11–C20 alcohols. Unbranched-octanoic acid and n-hexadecanol dominated fatty acid and alcohol fractions, respectively, but 2-methyl-branched compounds were numerous in all individuals. The chemical compositions of fatty acids and alcohols differ between winter and the breeding season. In breeding gulls, 2-monomethyl-branched fatty acids were lower in content or could not be found, contrary to herring gulls in winter, where 2-monomethyl-substituted fatty acids were the second most abundant among all the fatty acids. Breeding gulls had also a higher content of n-octanoic acid and n-hexadecanol and a lower content of 2,6- and 2,8-dimethyl-substituted fatty acids than individuals caught during the winter. Differences in fatty acid composition were greater in breeding males, which incubate more often at night than breeding females. Hence, chemical changes in the preen wax composition in males may have evolved as additional nocturnal protection against mammalian predators which use olfaction to detect their prey and which are more active at night; however, this needs to be tested. Olfactory-based mate recognition in the colony also cannot be excluded at this stage of experimentation.

KeywordsHerring gull Larus argentatus Preen waxes Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry Handling Editor: Günther Raspotnig.

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Autor: Izabela Fischer - Łukasz P. Haliński - Włodzimierz Meissner - Piotr Stepnowski - Małgorzata Knitter


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