An Introduction to the Galapagos Wildlife & Marine Life : Masked Bobby

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“Parasula” redirects here. The fossil genus established by C.J.O. Harrison is properly called Empheresula.
Masked Booby
Austropacific Masked Booby (S. d. personata ) with chick (background)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Sulidae
Genus: Sula
Species: S. dactylatra
Binomial name
Sula dactylatra
(Lesson, 1831)
Subspecies
see text

 

Classification

First described by French naturalist René-Primevère Lesson in 1831, the Masked Booby is one of six species of booby in the genus Sula. The Nazca Booby (S. granti ) was formerly regarded as a subspecies. There are four subspecies, none of which is separable at sea:

  • S. d. personata van Tets, Meredith, Fullagar & Davidson, 1988: Austropacific Masked Booby
Breeds in the central and western Pacific and around Australia, as well as off Mexico and on Clipperton Island. Birds of the latter two locations have been separated as subspecies granti, and the NW Australian population has been named as subspecies bedouti, but neither is usually considered valid.
  • S. d. dactylatra van Tets, Meredith, Fullagar & Davidson, 1988: Atlantic Masked Booby
Breeds in the Caribbean and some Atlantic islands including Ascension Island. It has recently started breeding off Tobago, formerly being known in this area only from a single sight record from an oil rig off Trinidad.
  • S. d. melanops van Tets, Meredith, Fullagar & Davidson, 1988: Western Indian Ocean Masked Booby
Breeds in the western Indian Ocean.
  • S. d. tasmani (including S. d. fullagari ) van Tets, Meredith, Fullagar & Davidson, 1988: Tasman Booby or Lord Howe Masked Booby
The form breeding on Lord Howe and the Kermadec Islands. Large prehistoric specimens known from the former and Norfolk Island are sometimes considered a distinct “species” (properly: subspecies). If this is correct, the extant population’s name would be S. d. tasmani as S. d. fullagari was described after S. tasmani. Comparison of ancient DNA form tasmani specimens and living fullagari indicates that they are not distinct.

Description

This is the largest booby, at 74–91 cm (29–36 in) long, with a 137–165 cm (54–65 in) wingspan and 1.2–2.35 kg (2.6–5.2 lb) weight.[4] Adults are white with pointed black wings, a pointed black tail, and a dark grey facemask. The sexes are similar, but the male has a yellow bill, and the female’s is greenish yellow; during the breeding season they have a patch of bare, bluish skin at the base of the bill. Juveniles are brownish on the head and upperparts, with a whitish rump and neck collar. The underparts are white. Adult plumage is acquired over two years.

The Masked Booby is silent at sea, but has a reedy whistling greeting call at the nesting colonies. While on the breeding grounds, these birds display a wide range of hissing and quacking notes.

Behaviour

Masked Boobies are spectacular divers, plunging diagonally into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish, including flying fish. This is a fairly sedentary bird, wintering at sea, but rarely seen far away from the breeding colonies. However, Caribbean birds occasionally wander north to warm southern Gulf Stream waters off the eastern seaboard of the United States. More remarkably, there have been three Western Palaearctic records of Masked Booby, presumably dactylatra, all from Spanish waters, although one of these also entered French territorial areas.

Breeding

The Masked Booby nests in small colonies, laying two chalky white eggs on sandy beaches in shallow depressions, which are incubated by both adults for 45 days. In most cases, the first chick will kill its smaller, weaker sibling after it hatches.[5] Siblicide has been well studied in this species; researchers such as David Anderson have demonstrated that while the boobies can manage to feed two chicks if siblicide is prevented, they do so at a steep penalty to health and future reproductive success.[6][7][8]

Compared to other species of boobies such as the blue-footed booby, siblicide is obligate in the Masked booby. One reason is because the Masked boobies build very shallow flat nests, so older chicks can expel their younger siblings with relative ease. Blue-footed Booby parents, meanwhile, build nests with steeper sides, thus preventing some older chicks from engaging in siblicidal behavior.[9]

References

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sula dactylatra
  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). Sula dactylatra. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  2. ^ Pitman, R. L.; Jehl, J. R. (1998): Geographic variation and reassessment of species limits in the “Masked” Boobies of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Wilson Bulletin 110(2): 155-70
  3. ^ Friesen, V. L.; Anderson, D. J.; Steeves, T. E.; Jones, H. & Schreiber, E. A. (2002): Molecular Support for Species Status of the Nazca Booby (Sula granti). Auk 119(3): 820–26. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2002)119[0820:MSFSSO]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext
  4. ^ [1] (2011).
  5. ^ Mack, Alison. 1997. “Natural born killers.” Earth 6, no. 3: 12. General Science Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2007).
  6. ^ Anderson, David J. 1990. “Evaluation of Obligate Suicide in Boobies. 1. A Test of the Insurance-Egg Hypothesis.” The American Naturalist 135, vol. 3: 334-350
  7. ^ Anderson, David J. 1990. “Evolution of Obligate Siblicide in Boobies. 2: Food Limitation and Parent-Offspring Conflict” Evolution 44 no. 8: 2069-2082
  8. ^ Alda, Alan (Host). (1999). Voyage to the Galapagos [Television series episode]. Scientific American Frontiers. Arlington, Virginia: Public Broadcasting Service. (transcript here: http://www.pbs.org/saf/transcripts/transcript1001.htm )
  9. ^ Anderson, David J. (1995). “The Role of Parents in Siblicidal Brood Reduction of Two Booby Species”. The Auk 112 (4): 860-869.
  • ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.

 

 

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