Concept: Great Auk
One hundred and seventy-three years ago, the last two Great Auks, Pinguinusimpennis, ever reliably seen were killed. Their internal organs can be found in the collections of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, but the location of their skins has remained a mystery. In 1999, Great Auk expert Errol Fuller proposed a list of five potential candidate skins in museums around the world. Here we take a palaeogenomic approach to test which-if any-of Fuller’s candidate skins likely belong to either of the two birds. Using mitochondrial genomes from the five candidate birds (housed in museums in Bremen, Brussels, Kiel, Los Angeles, and Oldenburg) and the organs of the last two known individuals, we partially solve the mystery that has been on Great Auk scholars' minds for generations and make new suggestions as to the whereabouts of the still-missing skin from these two birds.
Begging behaviour is an important element in the parent-offspring conflict; it has been studied in many avian species. However, the majority of the studies have been entirely based on the call counts, and they agreed that vocal activity was a good indicator of chick’s nutritional need and/or condition. Fewer researches were dedicated to the temporal-frequency variables of the begging calls themselves and they showed contrary results. Here begging behaviour in three burrow nested, uniparous species of auks (Alcidae) was studied. These objects provide an opportunity to study the signalling value of begging calls in the absence of important confounding factors such as nestling competition and predation pressure. I recorded calls of individual chicks in two conditions: during natural feeding and after experimental four-hour food deprivation. I found that almost all measured acoustic variables contain information about the chick’s state in all studied species. The hungry chicks produced calls higher in fundamental frequency and power variables and at higher calling rate compared to naturally feeding chicks. The effect of food deprivation on most acoustic variables exceeded both the effects of individuality and species. In all studied species, the frequency variables were stronger affected by hunger than the calling rate and call durations. I suppose that such strong change of acoustic variables after food deprivation can be explained by absence of vocal individual identification in these birds. As parents do not need to check individuality of the chick in the burrow, which they find visually during the day time, the chicks could use all of the acoustic variables to communicate about their nutritional needs.