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A look at the possible role of bacteria in plumage degradation


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All birds normally fly around with bacteria on their wings, but researchers wanted to know how those microorganisms affect their plumage. In the study published in the Auk: Ornithological Advances, researchers collected data from more than 3,500 live birds that included 154 different species such as cardinals, house sparrows, song sparrows, woodpeckers and others that were captured between 1996 and 2005 in Ohio, Louisiana, Maryland, Washington, Arizona and the Bay of Fundy. Lead author and PhD student at Tulane University Cody Kent and his colleagues tested the birds’ feathers to determine to what extent three species of bacteria from the family Bacillus affect their feathers as well as which bird species were most likely to have bacteria on them. A researcher hold a Carolina chickadee, one of the species that’s feathers were sampled in this research. ©Cody Kent Kent says that previous research showed bacteria can break down bird feathers in the lab, but it had not been shown on wild birds. Other studies had looked at possible evolutionary implications of the birds’ color and behavior as a result of bacteria. He and his colleagues wiped the birds’ feathers on petri dishes to culture and grow the microorganisms living on [...]

 

Read more: http://wildlife.org/a-look-at-the-possible-role-of-bacteria-in-plumage-degradation/

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