Dexterous herring gulls learn new tricks to adapt their feeding habits

ScienceDaily | 5/9/2019 | Staff
joyy (Posted by) Level 3
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The gulls (Larus argentatus) of Dún Laoghaire Marina at Dublin in Ireland have found a novel way of disposing of the tightly fixed outer layer of sea squirts -- an organism which they have learnt to pluck from the underside of pontoons by diving or floating on the water.

Sea squirts, or ascidians, are filter feeding creatures which have an outer layer, known as a 'tunic', designed to give protection from predators. This tunic is unpalatable to gulls, however, those living around Dún Laoghaire have overcome this using a particularly clever method.

Birds - Sea - Squirt - Tunic - Beaks

The birds grasp the sea squirt's tunic in their beaks, shake it to loosen the soft edible inner body, then switch to hold the inner body (again with their beaks) and shake again until the inedible outer layer is removed.

The team's report, published in the journal Ecosphere, is the first recorded observation of Herring Gulls feeding using this unusual behaviour.

Project - Leader - Luke - Holman - Postgraduate

Project leader Luke Holman, a postgraduate researcher in the School of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, comments: "As our coasts have been urbanised over the centuries, gull species have become opportunistic when looking for food. We have all seen them raiding rubbish bins in seaside towns and even swooping to take food straight from people's hands. But our study shows how the gulls of Dún Laoghaire...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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