Olfaction, volatile compounds and reproduction in birds

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) Science Article 4

abstract

Despite research in several biologically-relevant contexts, including orientation and resource acquisition, olfactionstudies in free-ranging reproducing bird populations are rare. This, inter alia, hampers the quantitative study of fitnessconsequencesof olfaction. Here we provide a brief review of the use of avian smell in the context of reproduction, focusing ona model system, the blue tit. Corsican blue tits (Parus c ruleus ogliastr ) incorporate into their nests small fragments ofaromatic plants that deliver high levels of volatile compounds easily perceived by a human observer. Blue tits use olfactorycues to anticipate the changes of the aromatic environment in their nests by repeatedly delivering fresh plant material with highconcentrations of volatile compounds. A chemical approach will enable measurement of volatile compound concentrations, theidentification of the volatile compounds involved, and ultimately the study of the functional meaning and fitness consequencesof olfaction in free-living populations of birds.

Marcel M. Lambrechts, M. Hoss rt-McKey, Acta Zoologica Sinica 52(Supplement): 284-287, 2006

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