Scientists examine bird poo contents

Posted Jun 2, 2013 by Tim Sandle
Scientists have examined the contents of bird poo and have compared the bacteria isolated with young birds and adults. The results reveal several differences in the composition of gut bacteria.
California Gull (Larus californicus).  Tybee Island  Ga.
California Gull (Larus californicus). Tybee Island, Ga.
As the Digital Journal has reported on several occasions this year, gut bacteria have a considerable influence on the health of animals (for example, this article considers the impact upon obesity).
Scientists have extended the analysis of gut bacteria to birds, specifically black-legged kittiwakes. The black-legged kittiwake is one of the most numerous of seabirds. Breeding colonies can be found in the Pacific from the Kuril Islands, around the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk throughout the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands to southeast Alaska, and in the Atlantic from the Gulf of St. Lawrence through Greenland and the coast of Ireland down to Portugal, as well as in the high Arctic islands. In the winter, the range extends further south and out to sea.
To collect the samples, the researchers "flushed" the birds' guts by gently infusing a salt solution into the cloacae and collecting the liquid. The bacteria were isolated and the analyzed using genetic methods.
What the analysis revealed was that there was a great variety of bacterial species in the guts of kittiwake chicks but the assortment in the adults was much less diverse. This surprised the scientists given that chicks share the nest with their parents and eat food that is regurgitated by the parents. The diet of the adult bird consists predominantly of marine invertebrates (e.g. squid and shrimps) and fish.
This finding suggests that suggest that young birds are susceptible to many species of bacteria that pass through their gut, whereas adults are not. Further studies will be carried out to consider the causes and consequences of the variation in the bacterial diversity of the gut between young and adult birds.
The research was carried out by Wouter van Dongen and colleagues from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna, scientists from the Laboratoire √Čvolution & Diversit√© Biologique (EDB), Toulouse and researchers from the US Geological Survey, Anchorage. The findings have been published in the journal BMC Ecology