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Despite recent interest in the interactions between birds and feather microbes, little is known about the identity of these microbes, and all studies of feather microbes thus far have focused on passerines living in temperate regions. Comparisons of the microbial groups living on different groups of birds may provide valuable insight into the ecological roles microbes play on feathers. We used culture-independent molecular techniques to identify the assemblages of bacteria found on the feathers of two closely related seabirds (Crested and Least Auklets (Aethia cristatella and A. pusilla)) and, for comparison, domestic Chickens (Gallus gallus). Some isolates were found on all three species (as well as on other species, as reported in the literature), while others were only found on Auklets. In particular, bacteria of the cold- and salt-tolerant genus Psychrobacter were only recovered from Crested Auklets. These results suggest that some genera of bacteria may be commonly found on birds, while others may be restricted in their distributions.


This work is freely available courtesy of the Waterbird Society.