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Study documents marathon migrations of sooty shearwaters

g the equator at various locations over a period of about a month. But the return trip was remarkably synchronous, Shaffer said. All of the tagged birds funneled through a narrow corridor and crossed the equator within a ten-day period in October. Ongoing research using tags redeployed on the same birds will show whether or not individual birds have preferred feeding areas that they travel to each year.

The research on sooty shearwaters is part of a Census of Marine Life project called Tagging Of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP), which is deploying electronic tags on 23 species of top predators in the North Pacific Ocean. Daniel Costa, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC who oversees TOPP studies of marine mammals and seabirds, said the shearwater study was only possible because of the increasing miniaturization of electronic tags.

"When we first got together to plan the TOPP program, we didn't know if the technology was available to tag a bird that small," Costa said. "Sooty shearwaters were a species that we knew came here from the Southern Hemisphere, but we knew very little about its migratory patterns. Now we know this is an organism that integrates resources across the entire Pacific, which is quite a feat when you think about it."

The tag used on the sooty shearwaters, made by a Canadian company called Lotek Wireless, weighs about 12 grams (less than half an ounce). The researchers recaptured 20 tagged birds at two breeding colonies in New Zealand. The tags recorded the daily activities of each bird during part of the breeding season and throughout the migration to the Northern Hemisphere and back. In addition to geographic locations, the tags recorded pressure and temperature data, providing information about the birds' diving behavior and the temperatures they encountered at sea.

The temperature data helped Shaffer's team ensure the accuracy of the location data, using a technique that integrates temperat
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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-4352
University of California - Santa Cruz
7-Aug-2006


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