Volume 13 Issue 1
Mar.  2022
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Johann H. Van Niekerk, Rodrigo Megía-Palma, Giovanni Forcina. 2022: Thermoregulatory function and sexual dimorphism of the throat sack in Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) across Africa. Avian Research, 13(1): 100047. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100047
Citation: Johann H. Van Niekerk, Rodrigo Megía-Palma, Giovanni Forcina. 2022: Thermoregulatory function and sexual dimorphism of the throat sack in Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) across Africa. Avian Research, 13(1): 100047. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100047

Thermoregulatory function and sexual dimorphism of the throat sack in Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) across Africa

doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100047

the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology PTDC/BAA-AGR/28866/2017

the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology CEECIND/04084/2017

More Information
  • Corresponding author: E-mail address: tvniekjh@unisa.ac.za (J. Van Niekerk)
  • Received Date: 28 Jan 2022
  • Accepted Date: 24 Jun 2022
  • Rev Recd Date: 23 Jun 2022
  • Available Online: 11 Oct 2022
  • Publish Date: 14 Jul 2022
  • The responses of ground-dwelling birds to heat and cold stress encompass a variety of behavioural, physiological and even morphological mechanisms. However, the role of glabrous skin in this respect has been marginally addressed so far. The Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is a landfowl distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa with eight traditionally recognised extant subspecies. Among the most prominent morphological traits underlying intraspecific variability are size and pigmentation of the bare throat skin (or sack), which might be related to the different habitats and environmental conditions across its wide range. In order to explore the Helmeted Guineafowl range-wide sack variation and pigmentation in relation to thermoregulation and sexual signalling, we collected morphometric and environmental information for N. m. coronata integrating field data with the inspection of photographic material encompassing seven subspecies and environmental information from their habitats. Field data evidenced that sack size was significantly correlated with ambient temperature, thus pointing to a likely involvement of the throat sack in thermoregulation. When the pictorial data from all subspecies were pooled, sack size correlated negatively with biomass, rainfall and humidity, while a positive correlation was found with annual solar irradiation. Sack size correlated positively with monthly temperature variation among the blue-throated subspecies from southern Africa as opposed to the black-throated subspecies ranging north to Zambia and Mozambique. Still, in this latter group the sack was often larger during winter months, possibly to maximise solar radiation absorbance. Noteworthy, sack size was related to sex dimorphism in two subspecies. Sack morphology and colour in the Helmeted Guineafowl likely modulate body temperature by evaporative cooling or heating upon needs, but in some subspecies it is also seemingly related to sexual signalling. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the multifunctionality of this important morphological feature in this species.


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