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Shearwaters' Olfaction: a comparative study of sensory ecology in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean (SOMA)
Start date: Nov 1, 2011, End date: Oct 31, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Petrels (order Procellariiformes) are seabirds found in worldwide oceans with a high diversity of species and characterized by pelagic and wide-ranging lifestyle. Some recent study showed that their well-developed sense of smell plays a key role in locating patchily distributed food resources in the ocean, in nest finding at night, and for mate recognition. However, different species of petrels tested responded differently to olfactory stimuli according to their ecology. This suggests that odours responsiveness may be linked to specific adaptations, but sensory ecology of petrels is understudied and comparative studies are virtually missing. We hypothesize that different environmental constraints in close seas and open oceans, may have led to rely differently on olfactory cues. Here, we propose a comprehensive comparative study aimed to investigate how olfaction contributes to behaviours such as homing, foraging, individual and predators’ odour recognition and migration routes, using Cory’s shearwaters as model species. We will try to identify the evolutionary adaptations to different environments, comparing sensory ecology of different populations of this species breeding in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean. We will also integrate ecological and behavioural data with chemical and phylogenetical analyses. The results of this study will be fundamental for the knowledge and conservation of this species. The Host institution is so far the only one in Europe dealing with olfaction and sensory ecology of seabirds. The proposed research, characterized by the promotion of international collaboration among different European Members, will bring the European Research Area in the forefront of olfactory and sensory ecology research, and to be a reference for the world research in this rising domain."

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