Stable isotopes suggest low site fidelity in Bar-Headed Geese (Anser indicus) in Mongolia: Implications for disease transmission

Waterbirds
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Abstract

Population connectivity is an important consideration in studies of disease transmission and biological conservation, especially with regard to migratory species. Determining how and when different subpopulations intermingle during different phases of the annual cycle can help identify important geographical regions or features as targets for conservation efforts and can help inform our understanding of continental-scale disease transmission. In this study, stable isotopes of hydrogen and carbon in contour feathers were used to assess the degree of molt-site fidelity among Bar-headed Geese (Anser indicus) captured in north-central Mongolia. Samples were collected from actively molting Bar-headed Geese (n = 61), and some individual samples included both a newly grown feather (still in sheath) and an old, worn feather from the bird's previous molt (n = 21). Although there was no difference in mean hydrogen isotope ratios for the old and new feathers, the isotopic variance in old feathers was approximately three times higher than that of the new feathers, which suggests that these birds use different and geographically distant molting locations from year to year. To further test this conclusion, online data and modeling tools from the isoMAP website were used to generate probability landscapes for the origin of each feather. Likely molting locations were much more widespread for old feathers than for new feathers, which supports the prospect of low molt-site fidelity. This finding indicates that population connectivity would be greater than expected based on data from a single annual cycle, and that disease spread can be rapid even in areas like Mongolia where Bar-headed Geese generally breed in small isolated groups.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Stable isotopes suggest low site fidelity in Bar-Headed Geese (Anser indicus) in Mongolia: Implications for disease transmission
Series title Waterbirds
DOI 10.1675/063.038.0201
Volume 38
Issue 2
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher The Waterbird Society
Publisher location Washington D.C.
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 10 p.
First page 123
Last page 132
Country Mongolia
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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