Atlantic Puffin health and its effect on reproductive success and honest signalling in bills and feet
University of New Brunswick
In seabirds, monitoring the health of individuals and how it affects reproductive success allows researchers to make predictions about the population as a whole. In my study I focused on body condition and heterophil:lymphocyte ratio (H:L), as a measure of stress response, in Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica). When testing what aspects of health are predictive of reproductive success I found that females with lower heterophil:lymphocyte ratios have better egg hatching success, while I found no aspect of male health to be predictive of egg hatching success. Additionally I tested whether the colour of puffin bills or feet was related to their body condition or H:L ratio but found no correlation between colouration and these health metrics in either sex, though my sample sizes were small and no definitive conclusions could be made. Finally, I tested whether my handling of breeding puffins was detrimental to their breeding success in case that invalidated my study on health and reproductive success. I found no significant difference in egg hatching or chick fledging rates between birds that were handled during incubation and those that were not during this study.