Plumage odor predicts social rank in a captive population of Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella)
Date of Award
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Bachelor of Arts
I investigated the social function of the tangerine-like plumage odor of Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella) by studying a captive population for two consecutive breeding seasons. Specifically, I examined the relationships between sex, social rank and three compounds previously identified as key components of auklet odor (cis-4-decenal, decanal, and octanal). I also monitored the odor of birds over time to determine whether scent declined over the course of the breeding season. Intra- and inter-sexual aggression suggested that the auklets maintained a stable, linear hierarchy. Social ranks also remained consistent between years. For the entire population, a multivariate stepwise regression indicated that crest length, cis-4-decenal, and decanal concentrations predicted social rank, while octanal concentration and sex of the bird did not. Separate analysis of each sex revealed that decanal alone correlated positively with male social rank during 2003. In 2004, male rank correlated with the combined concentration of two odor components (cis-4-decenal and decanal). No compound correlated with female rank in either year. A positive relationship between male rank and odor is consistent with cis-4-decenal and decanal acting as male indicator traits. Additionally, both compounds exhibited a significant decline in concentration by the end of the breeding season. End-of-season scent loss suggests that odor behaves similarly to other secondary sexual traits and may serve as an olfactory ornament.
Kett, Lauren R. , '05, "Plumage odor predicts social rank in a captive population of Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella)" (2005). Senior Theses, Projects, and Awards. 58.