The little auk Alle alle polaris of Franz Josef Land: a comparison with Svalbard Alle a. alle populations
AbstractBreeding biology, nestling growth and development, and biometry of the little auk Alle alle polaris were studied in Franz Josef Land. A total of 103 adult birds were measured, 60 in the field and 43 in the St. Petersburg Museum. The development of 16 chicks was compared with that of Alle a. alle chicks from Spitsbergen. At particular stages of development, both adults and nestlings of A. a. polaris are larger than those of A. a. alle. In Franz Josef Land the breeding season is more extended and less synchronised than that of Svalbard. The majority of the little auks in the studied colonies in Franz Josef Land nested on steep rocky cliffs, possibly as an adaptation to the severe climatic conditions and heavy mammalian predation in subcolonies located on accessible mountain slopes. Glaucous gulls Larus hyperboreus exerted negligible predatory pressure. This study confirms the existence of morphologically distinguishable populations of the little auk on Franz Josef Land and Svalbard, supported by recent studies of climatic and oceanographic conditions in the two areas that parallel the morphological differentiation.
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