Growth-related changes in salt gland mass in gentoo and chinstrap penguin chicks
The salt gland is a well-developed osmoregulation organ in marine birds, and its relative size often reflects an individual’s feeding environment and osmoregulation capability. The development and functions of salt glands have been described for the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), but this information has been poorly documented in the other two pygoscelid species: gentoo (P. papua) and chinstrap penguins (P. antarcticus). To describe the growth-related changes in salt gland masses in relation to chick growth, we measured the wet mass of the salt glands collected from dead gentoo and chinstrap chicks during the early breeding period. The mass of the salt glands was linearly proportional to their body measurements, especially to body mass, in both species, and no significant difference was detected between the two species. Penguins are obligate marine dwellers throughout their life cycle, and the development of the salt gland in penguin chicks suggests that their ability to regulate dietary osmotic stress begins at an early stage of development after hatching. Furthermore, the linear relationship between the gland mass and body mass also suggests that the osmoregulation capability may continue to develop as penguin chicks grow. This descriptive note provides novel and quantitative information on the early developmental pattern of salt glands in gentoo and chinstrap penguins.
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