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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(2)

Morphology and histology of the uropygial gland in Antarctic birds: relationship with their contact with the aquatic environment?

María Cecilia Chiale A B , Patricia E. Fernández C , Eduardo J. Gimeno B C , Claudio Barbeito B C D and Diego Montalti A B E

A División Zoología Vertebrados, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, B1900FWA-La Plata, Argentina.
B Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), C1033AAJ-Buenos Aires, Argentina.
C Cátedra de Patología General, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Calle 60 and 118, B1900-La Plata, Argentina.
D Cátedra de Histología y Embriología, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Calle 60 and 118, B1900-La Plata, Argentina.
E Corresponding author. Email: dmontalti@fcnym.unlp.edu.ar

Australian Journal of Zoology 62(2) 157-165 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO13103
Submitted: 23 May 2013  Accepted: 18 March 2014   Published: 28 April 2014

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The uropygial gland is morphologically different in diverse bird species. This gland was macroscopically and microscopically examined in penguins, storm petrels and skuas. In all the studied species, the gland showed a connective tissue capsule and one papilla. A negative relationship was observed between the relative glandular mass and the body mass, being highest in petrels (small glands) and lowest in penguins (large glands). Birds that spend much time in water (penguins) have gland characteristics related to a continuous, but not stored, secretion, such as straight adenomers, the presence of abundant elastic fibres in the connective tissue and the absence of a primary storage chamber. Instead, birds that have less contact with water (storm petrels) have a gland with much more tortuous adenomers and a small primary storage chamber. The secretory cells showed a positive PAS reaction in all the glandular zones. Therefore, no differences could be seen between the sebaceous and glucogenic zones, as proposed in other birds. These results allow the conclusion that, in aquatic birds, there is no connection between the relative mass of the uropygial gland and the time in contact with water, though the differences found in the histological structure could be related to a different contact with the aquatic environment.

Additional keywords: avian gland, preen gland, seabird.


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