Effect of habitat use and diet on the gastrointestinal parasite community of an avian omnivore from an urbanized environment

We examined the effect of habitat use and diet on gastrointestinal parasite assemblages of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis Ord, 1815) breeding in an urbanized region (Montréal, Quebec, Canada) using three approaches depicting different temporal scales. Birds were fitted with global positioning system data loggers to determine habitat-use patterns during a 2–3 day period. Stomach contents were examined, providing dietary information during the preceding hours. Liver carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope signatures served as proxy of nutrient assimilation during the preceding 10 days. Endoparasite community variations were best explained by δ13C and δ15N ratios. Individuals with lower δ15N had lower parasite abundance, while δ13C was enriched in birds with less diverse parasites (fewer helminth genera). Tissue depletion in 15N in Ring-billed Gulls from this colony has previously been associated with predominant consumption of human-related foods. The present study supports the hypothesis that Ring-billed Gulls exhibiting preference for anthropogenic food sources encounter fewer trophically transmitted parasites, which may have contributed, in part, to their population expansion during the last century.
Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology - Category: Zoology Tags: article Source Type: research

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