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El hornero

versión impresa ISSN 0073-3407versión On-line ISSN 1850-4884


TORRES DOWDALL, Julián; FARMER, Adrian  y  BUCHER, Enrique H.. Using stable isotopes to determine migratory connectivity in birds: extent and limitations. Hornero [online]. 2006, vol.21, n.2, pp.73-84. ISSN 0073-3407.

The need to unravel migratory connectivity in different bird species has generated the development of several techniques to determine the geographical origin of individuals. Using the stable isotopes composition of animal tissues is one of the emerging techniques that had the greatest development. The principles of the technique are, first, that there is a geographical pattern in stable isotopes values, as a result of natural and anthropogenic processes, and, second, that stable isotopes are assimilated when an organism eats, and eventually they become fixed in animal tissues, in proportions related to the natural abundance in the environment. The most commonly used tissue is from flight feathers, since they incorporate the stable isotope composition of the food and, once moult is finished, they stay metabolically inactive until they are replaced. Although this technique has been applied with success in several species, variability found within birds from the same origin limits its potential accuracy. This variability could be the result of different processes affecting the isotopic change between food and tissues of the target species, winter movements, or baseline changes through time (temporal changes in the hydrogen isotopic values in precipitation). A better understanding of the sources of error would help to design better studies in order to minimize variability and to develop better models to determine the geographic origin of individual birds.

Palabras clave : deuterium; isotopic variability; migratory birds; natural markers.

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