Seasonal changes in the preen wax composition of the Herring gull Larus argentatus

Izabela Fischer , Łukasz Haliński , Włodzimierz Meissner , Piotr Stepnowski , Małgorzata Knitter


The preen gland produces oily secretion, which smeared onto a bird’s plumage improves its maintenance. The main components of the secretion are waxes, and its composition often changes during the year. The aim of this study was to determine the differences in the chemical composition of preen waxes in adult herring gulls Larus argentatus, captured in Poland in winter and in the breeding season. Preen gland secretions of herring gulls consist of monoester waxes, composed of about 29 saturated C7–C16 fatty acids and about 51 saturated C11–C20 alcohols. Unbranched-octanoic acid and n-hexadecanol dominated fatty acid and alcohol fractions, respectively, but 2-methyl-branched compounds were numerous in all individuals. The chemical compositions of fatty acids and alcohols differ between winter and the breeding season. In breeding gulls, 2-monomethyl-branched fatty acids were lower in content or could not be found, contrary to herring gulls in winter, where 2-monomethyl-substituted fatty acids were the second most abundant among all the fatty acids. Breeding gulls had also a higher content of n-octanoic acid and n-hexadecanol and a lower content of 2,6- and 2,8-dimethyl-substituted fatty acids than individuals caught during the winter. Differences in fatty acid composition were greater in breeding males, which incubate more often at night than breeding females. Hence, chemical changes in the preen wax composition in males may have evolved as additional nocturnal protection against mammalian predators which use olfaction to detect their prey and which are more active at night; however, this needs to be tested. Olfactory-based mate recognition in the colony also cannot be excluded at this stage of experimentation.
Author Izabela Fischer (FB / DVEZ)
Izabela Fischer ,,
- Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology
, Łukasz Haliński (FCh / DEA / LANC)
Łukasz Haliński,,
- Laboratory of Analysis of Natural Compounds
, Włodzimierz Meissner (FB / DVEZ)
Włodzimierz Meissner,,
- Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology
, Piotr Stepnowski (FCh / DEA / LChER)
Piotr Stepnowski,,
- Laboratory of Chemical Environmental Risks
, Małgorzata Knitter (FB / DVEZ)
Małgorzata Knitter ,,
- Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology
Other language title versions
Journal seriesChemoecology, ISSN 0937-7409, (A 25 pkt)
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets0.6
Keywords in EnglishHerring gull, Larus argentatus, Preen waxes, Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry
ASJC Classification1303 Biochemistry; 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)25
Score sourcejournalList
ScoreMinisterial score = 25.0, 27-03-2020, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators Scopus Citations = 8; WoS Citations = 6; Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2017 = 0.913; WoS Impact Factor: 2017 = 1.642 (2) - 2017=2.015 (5)
Citation count*9 (2020-03-22)
Share Share

Get link to the record

* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
Are you sure?