Sexing sooty terns on Ascension Island frommorphometricmeasurements

Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata) Science Article 9


Sooty terns Onychoprion fuscata are one of the most abundant seabirds but breeding populations in many colonies have diminished. Rapid sexing of sooty terns in the field could be crucial in advancing our understanding of their reproductive biology, and in promoting conservation. However, sooty tern males and females are identical in their plumage and, thus, difficult to sex in the field. Morphometric measurements were taken from 63 adult sooty terns breeding on Ascension Island in 2005. A small blood sample was taken from the brachial vein to determine the bird’s sex using standard PCR-based molecular techniques. Males were consistently larger in all morphometric measurements than females but considerable overlap between the sexes resulted in no single measurement being a useful discriminator of sex. A principal components analysis on a correlation matrix of seven morphometric measurements indicated that the first principal component (PC1) was a good

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