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Portable spectrometry for bird research

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Seabird behavioural scientist Dr Petra Quillfeldt has found a novel use for mass spectrometry. Her research group from the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany has used a portable mass spectrometer from Avantes to determine the maturity of birds on New Island in the Falklands.

The AvaSpec 2048, which works from a small 12V battery and laptop computer, determines the bird’s age by analysing its feather and skin colour, and ornamental appearance. The birds, thin-billed prions, can see and signal in UV, so the spectrometer has been particularly suitable for determining the origin of signalling with ornaments, hormonal control, and trade-offs between signal production and reproduction.