Metabolic and hormonal correlates of reproductive effort in the kittiwake

Updated 2004-04-20

A co-operative project between France and Norway is proposed to study the physiological mechanisms (hormones and metabolic rate) involved in the regulation of parental effort (brood size) in an Arctic-breeding seabird, the kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. This project will be carried out at Kongsfjorden (Ny Ålesund, Svalbard) which constitutes one the northernmost (79° N) breeding site of the species. The main goal of this project is to understand the reasons of the very poor productivity of the species in this high-arctic area (only one chick/pair/year compared to 2-3 chicks/ pair/year in more temperate areas). To do so, we will concurrently study the metabolic cost of chick rearing and the metabolic cost of foraging. To test whether parent kittiwakes are apparently unable to rear more than one chick, we will manipulate brood size and will measure its consequences on basal metabolic rate (BMR) and foraging activity. We will experimentally manipulate the brood size by swapping chicks between nests shortly after hatching. Parent birds of the different experimental groups will be captured, weighted and a small blood sample (500 µL) will be taken for thyroid hormones. BMR will be estimated through thyroïd hormones (Chastel et al. 2003, J. Avian Biol. 34: 298-306), a method that reduces handling time imposed by the use of a respirometer, whereas activity at sea will be estimated using miniature activity recorders (Daunt et al., 2002 Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.245 : 239-247, Tremblay et al. 2003, J. Exp. Biol. 206: 1929-1940). Nests of the different groups (12 nests with 2 chicks and 12 nest with 1 chick) will be observed during 2 weeks after what parent birds will be recaptured, and bled again for T3 assay. On an other group of birds (N=10), we will calibrate these miniature activity recorders (N=10, weight:5 g) by observing the activities (rest, brooding, flying, etc..) of the instrumented birds in the colony. Food samples (N=12) will be collected from parent birds during capture and recapture sessions (kittiwakes spontaneously regurgitate food when handled). Breeding adults and chicks will be maked with plastic rings that allow identification from a distance.

Time frame

Project time span
2004 - 2007
Data collection
2004 - 2007
Data processing
2004 - 2007
Data reporting
2004 - 2007

Contact information

Contact person
CEBC/CNRS, F-79360, Villiers en Bois, FRANCE
+33 5 49 09 78 37
+33 5 49 09 65 26
Other project contacts
Dr. Geir . W. Gabrielsen (Norwegian Polar Institut, Tromsø, Norway).

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

Blood samples for hormones assays


Regions studied

Data availability

References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Cherel, Y. Ridoux, V. Weimerskirch, H. Tveraa, T. & Chastel, O. 2001. Capelin (Mallotus villosus) as an important food source for northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) breeding at Bjornoya (Bear Island), Barents sea. ICES Jornal of Marine Science 58 : 355-361 Weimerskirch, H. Chastel, O. Cherel, Y. Henden, J. A. & Tveraa, T. 2001. Nest attendance and foraging movements of northen fulmars rearing chicks at Bjornoya, Barents sea. Polar Biology 24 : 83-88. Tremblay, Y., Cherel, Y., Oremus, M., Tveraa, T., & Chastel, O. 2003. Uncoventional ventral attachment of time-depth recorders as a new method for investigating time budget and diving behaviour of seabirds. Journal of Experimental Biology 206: 1929-1940 Chastel, O., Bech, C.& Gabrielsen, G. W. Oiseaux marins arctiques et changements environnementaux: adaptations comportementales et physiologiques. Rapport d'activité de l'IPEV. Sous presse Chastel, O. Environmental variability and reproductive effort in Arctic seabirds. octobre 2000, Royal Academy of Science, Oslo, Norvège. Chastel, O. Variabilité Environnementale et Effort de reproduction chez les oiseaux marins arctiques. 26th Colloque Francophone d'Ornithologie, 21-22 avril 2001, Limoges, France. Chastel, O. & Lormée, H. Hormones and parental effort in seabirds: an experimental approach. XXIII International Ornithological Congress, Beijing, China, 11-17 août 2002 Chastel, O. Thyroid hormones, basal metabolic rate and parental effort. Adaptation and constraints in avian reproduction: integrating ecology and endocrinology, an (linked NSF and) ESF Workshop, 6-7 septembre 2002. Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Specimen banking information

Plasma (for hormones assays) in a deep freeze at CEBC/CNRS

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Parent birds of the different experimental groups will be captured, weighted and a small blood sample (200 µL) will be taken for thyroid hormones. After centrifugation, plasma is used for hormones assay using radioimmunoassay at the CEBC/CNRS

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Other institutes involved in the project

Norwegian Polar Institut, Tromsø, Norway Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

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