, Volume 163, Issue 2, pp 303–311 | Cite as

Ectoparasites, uropygial glands and hatching success in birds

  • Anders Pape MøllerEmail author
  • Johannes Erritzøe
  • Lajos Rózsa
Physiological ecology - Original Paper


The uropygial gland of birds secretes wax that is applied to the plumage, where the secretions are hypothesized to eliminate fungi and bacteria, thereby potentially providing important benefits in terms of plumage maintenance. We analyzed variation in size of the uropygial gland in 212 species of birds to determine the function and the ecological correlates of variation in gland size. Bird species with larger uropygial glands had more genera of chewing lice of the sub-order Amblycera, but not of the sub-order Ischnocera, and more feather mites. There was a fitness advantage associated with relatively large uropygial glands because such species had higher hatching success. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the uropygial gland functions to manage the community of microorganisms, and that certain taxa of chewing lice have diverged as a consequence of these defenses.


Chewing lice Feather mites Hatching success Preen gland 



This research was funded by Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia and FEDER (project CGL2007-61251/BOS) to A. P. Møller, J. J. Soler and J. M. Peralta.

Supplementary material

442_2009_1548_MOESM1_ESM.doc (582 kb)
Supplementary material (DOC 582 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Pape Møller
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Johannes Erritzøe
    • 3
  • Lajos Rózsa
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire D’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079Université Paris-SudOrsay CedexFrance
  2. 2.Center for Advanced StudyOsloNorway
  3. 3.Taps Old RectoryChristiansfeldDenmark
  4. 4.Animal Ecology Research GroupHungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungarian Natural History MuseumBudapestHungary

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