Poster 136: Jessica Stanley – Relationship Between Bill Morphology and Parasite Load

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Faculty mentor: Dale Clayton 

Many avian species have evolved behavioral defenses to remove parasites such as lice and mites from their feathers. One defense birds use is called preening, where they use their bill to remove parasites from their plumage. An overhang present at the tip of their bill is used to crush parasites between their upper and lower bill. It was found that Darwin’s finches have an idealized overhang size to maintain the lowest number of parasites. We wanted to test if this is also true with populations.

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