Differential contributions of endogenous and exogenous nutrients to egg components in wild Baltic Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima): A test of alternative stable isotope approaches

Hobson Keith A., Kim Jaatinen, Markus Öst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The relative importance of nutrients derived from feeding on breeding vs. nonbreeding grounds to the formation of eggs is crucial for predicting how the breeding success of migrating birds responds to changes in food availability during any part of their annual cycle. Eiders have been considered a classical capital breeder, but this assumption has rarely been tested. The measurement of naturally occurring stable isotopes in egg components, together with those in endogenous and exogenous nutrient endpoints, allow the estimation of the relative sources of nutrients to eggs, but these mixing models rely critically on appropriate isotopic discrimination factors that link egg isotope values with their source. A recent captive study using Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) provided estimates of these isotopic discrimination factors for income breeding. We applied these discrimination factors for investigating nutrient allocation strategies in Common Eiders (Somateria mollisima) breeding in the northern Baltic (Tvarminne, Finland) and wintering in Danish waters, sourced during 2009-2012. Our overall estimates of protein sources using isotopic mixing models were mixed for egg yolk (median: 44.5-56.5% endogenous) and overwhelmingly exogenous for egg albumen (0.4-0.7%). We tested our conclusions also with a single (delta N-15) model and with a more parsimonious delta C-13 discrimination factor between diet and egg albumen, and both supported little to no endogenous reserves being used for egg albumen. A strong positive correlation between egg lipid delta C-13 and lipid-free yolk delta C-13 suggests similar metabolic pathways between diet sources and these egg macromolecules. The applicability of isotope discrimination factors used in nutrient allocation studies derived from captive populations needs to be tested in wild populations. Our results support the idea that potential food limitation not only at the wintering areas, but also at the breeding grounds, can limit breeding success of Baltic Common Eiders, which are currently declining.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)624–633
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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