We compared body size and mass of the whole body, organs, adipose tissue, and muscles of adult Pacific Black Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans (Lawrence, 1846)) collected concurrently in Alaska and Baja California during the fall, winter, and spring of 2002-2003. Head and tarsal lengths of males were similar between sites and slightly larger for females in Alaska than in Baja California. Brant appear to operate under similar physiological bounds, but patterns of nutrient allocation differ between sites. Birds wintering in Alaska lost similar amounts of adipose tissue during early winter as birds in Baja California gained during late winter before migration. Masses of the body, adipose tissue, and flight muscles during mid-winter were similar between sites. Seasonal adipose tissue deposition may, therefore, equally favor winter residency or long-distance migration. Gonad and liver masses increased in late winter for birds in Alaska but not for those in Baja California, suggesting birds wintering in Baja may delay reproductive development in favor of allocating reserves needed for migration. Phenotypic flexibility allows Brant to use widely divergent wintering sites. The wintering location of Brant likely depends more upon changes in environmental conditions and food availability, than upon physiological differences between the two wintering populations. ?? 2007 NRC.
Additional publication details
Mass dynamics of wintering Pacific Black Brant: Body, adipose tissue, organ, and muscle masses vary with location