Feather Flora of Migratory Shore Birds

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Many bryophytes display infraspecific bipolar geographic disjunctions. The northern and southern high latitude regions, where bryophytes are particularly abundant, lack wind connectivity, suggesting that other dispersal vectors must be considered. While migratory birds have been frequently proposed as potential vectors for bipolar dispersal, the evidence remains circumstantial. Our project aims to provide the first evidence for long distance dispersal by migratory birds.

Research Team

Lily Lewis

Lily Lewis (Ph.D. candidate and project supervisor)

Emily Behling

Emily Behling (undergraduate)

A current junior at UConn studying biology.

Hannah Gousse

Hannah Gousse (undergraduate)

A current junior at UConn studying ecology and evolutionary biology.

Emily Qian

Emily Qian (undergraduate)

A current senior at UConn studying psychology and molecular and cell biology.

Have you ever wondered what birds take with them as they travel across the globe?

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Our Process

Our research team, led by Lily Lewis, is in the process of scanning feather samples from migratory birds that were collected in Canada by François Lamarre and Joël Bêty. One by one, each feather is washed and the contents of its wash are viewed under a microscope in a controlled setting. If moss diapores are found on feathers, it is possible that birds may serve as vectors for long distance dispersal, however there has been very little research into the possibility of ectochorous dispersal by migratory shorebirds. With hundreds of feathers to process, our team hopes to provide evidence that migratory birds play a role in the long distance spore dispersal of bryophytes, especially when wind is not a possible vector.