Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Plasma alkaline phosphatase as a sensitive indicator of age and skeletal development in wild coscoroba swans

Cecilia P. Calabuig A C , Miguel Ferrer A , Roberto Muriel A and Vallo Tilgar B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Ethology and Biodiversity Conservation, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, Avenida Americo Vespucio s/n, 41092 Sevilla, Spain.

B Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, Tartu 51014, Estonia.

C Corresponding author. Email: cecicalabuig@ebd.csic.es

Wildlife Research 37(6) 504-511 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR09160
Submitted: 19 November 2009  Accepted: 16 September 2010   Published: 18 October 2010

Abstract

Context.: Recent studies have suggested that plasma alkaline phosphatase (ALP) can be used to assess skeletal development as well as health status in wild animals.

Aims.: However, the information about age-related dynamics of ALP in birds, especially in precocial species, is very scarce. Therefore, before ALP measurements can be effectively interpreted, it is necessary to determine its normal variation for each species, age group and sex.

Methods.: Here, we report total-ALP levels of free-living coscoroba swans (Coscoroba coscoroba) from the most important breeding and moulting population in Brazil. Data were gathered during the moulting period and categorised according to sex and the following three different age classes: chick (n = 11), young (n = 14) and mature (n = 29).

Key results.: ALP levels were related to the longitudinal measure of the bones, gradually diminishing with age and showing significant differences among birds of different age classes. In all age groups, no effect of sex on T-ALP concentration was detected.

Conclusions.: We conclude that measuring ALP facilitates the discrimination among different-aged individuals with similar plumage characteristics and body size.


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