Atlantic Puffin health and its effect on reproductive success and honest signalling in bills and feet

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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.