Intra population polymorphism of Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans) from the North-Western Coast of the Azov Sea (oological aspect)

  • Y. Y. Dubinina Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University
  • A. I. Koshelev Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University
  • V. A. Koshelev Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University
Keywords: Caspian gull, polymorphism, variation, egg shell coloring, oomorphological indicators


This study presents the results of a long term study of nesting colonies of the Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans Pallas, 1811) on the islands of the Molochniy Liman and in Obitochnaya Bay (Azov Sea), in the South of Ukraine (Zaporizhia region), conducted between 1988 and 2013. A description of the size and coloring of eggs of Caspian gull was conducted by generally accepted methods. We measured 1000 eggs from 5 colonies of Caspian gulls. The background coloration of the eggs’ shells was classified into 7 types, the pattern of markings on the surface of the shells was classified into 4 types. In the nesting colonies, comprising different nesting settlements, the study tested differences in the distribution of typical and atypical coloring types and patterns on the surface of the shells. The background color and character of the shell marking patterns is dominated by eggs of phenotypes 3 and 4: gray-green, with a pattern of spots, of medium size (5–60%) and brown, with a pattern of large spots (2–40%). In different settlements the Caspian gull egg sizes vary in length and diameter of 54.5–86.3 x 39.2–60.4 mm, volume 61.7–113.7 cm3 and index of roundness 63.6–85.3%. The study revealed that the linear dimensions of eggs also depend on the number of birds in the nesting colonies. We found that morphological and dimensional characteristics of Caspian gull eggs can vary at certain intervals and characterize individual colonies, settlements and populations. Based on cluster analysis, conducted in terms of the average of the linear sizes of eggs of Caspian gull from several populations within the range of the species, the study identified three groups of colonies – Danube-Sivash, Azov-Black Sea and Caucasus-Caspian. In region of the Azov-Black Sea, the greatest similarity was shown between the settlements of Sivash and the South of Crimea, which in turn is similar to Lebiyazhyi Islands and Kaniv Nature Reserve (river Dnipro). A related link combined the Azov and Black Sea branches, while the Caucasus-Caspian group is relatively separate. As a result this study the influence of the number of nesting birds on the dimensional characteristics of the eggs was established; in the period of increase in the Caspian gull population from the 1970s to the early 1990s they had the highest scores, and in periods of decreasing population in 2001–2005, their values were lowest. Consequently, the use of oomorphological indicators turned out to be a fairly easy and objective method for studying the monitoring data for separate colonial bird species. 


Albanis, T.A., Goutner, V., Konstantinou, I.K., Frigis, K., 2003. Organochlorine contaminants in eggs of the yellow-legged gull (Larus cachinnans machahellis) in the north eastern Mediterranean: Is this gull a suitable biomonitor for the region? Environ. Pollut. 126(2), 245–255.
Bondarcev, A.І., 1954. Shkala cvetov: Posobie dliya biologov pri nauchnih i nauhno-issledovatelskih uchrezhdeniyah [Сolor scale: A handbook for biologists in scientific and scientific-researcher chemist’s establishments]. Akademy of Science of USSR, Moscow–Leningrad (in Russian).
De Knijff, P., Denkers, F., van Swelm, N.D., Kuiper, M., 2001. Genetic affinities within the Herring gull Larus argentatus assemblage by aflp genotyping. J. Mol. Evol. 52(1), 85–93.
Dubinina-Pahucha, Y.Y., 2009. Oologìchni aspecty polymorphismu martyna zhovtonogogo (Larus cachinnans Pallas, 1811) Pivnichno-Zahidnogo Priazovya i perspektyvy yich vykoryatannya dlya monitoringu seredy [Oological aspects polymorphism of yellow legged gull (Larus cachinnans Pallas, 1811) of the Northern Azov Sea region and prospects of their use for monitoring environment]. Pryrodnichiy Almanah, Biologihni Nauki. Kherson 12, 62–72 (in Ukrainian).
Fox, G.A., Williams, K.S., Kennedy, S.W., Jeffrey, D.A., Grasman, K.A., 2007. Health of Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) in relation breeding location in the early 1990s. I. Biochemical mesures. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A 70(17), 1443–1470.
Gibbins, C., Neubauer, G., Small, B.J., 2011. Identification of Caspian Gull: Part 2: Phenotypic variability and characteristics of hybrids. British Birds 104(12), 702–742.
Golden, N.H., Rattner, B.A., 2003. Ranking terrestrial vertebrate species for utility biomonitoring and vulnerability to enviromental contaminants. Rev. Environ. Contam. T. 176, 67–136.
Grishchenko, V.N, Buchko, V.V., Gavryliuk, M.N., Skilski, I.V., 1998. Characteristica oologicheskih pokazatelej krupnyh vidov chaek lesostepi Ukrainy [Characteristics of oological indicators of major species of gulls forest-steppe of Ukraine]. Aactualnye Problemy Oologii. Lipetskij Gos. Ped. Institut, Lipetsk, 51–52 (in Russian).
Gwiazda, R., Bukaciński, D., Neubauer, G., Faber, M., Betleja, J., Zagalska-Neubauer, M., Bukacińska, M., Chylarecki, P., 2011. Diet composition of the Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) in inland Poland: Effect of breeding areas, breeding stages and sympatric breeding with the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). Ornis Fenn. 88, 80–89.
Gwiazda, R., Neubauer, G., Betleja, J., Bednarz, L., Zagalska-Neubauer, M., 2015. Reproductive parameters of Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans Pallas, 1811 in different habitats nearby and away fish ponds. Pol. J. Ecol. 63(1), 159–165.
Hoffmann, D., Gahrau, C., Schmuser, H., 2011. Bestandsentwickling, Brutbiologie und Schutz der Wiesenweihe (Circus pygargus) in Schleswig-Holstein. Populationsökologie von Greifvogel- und Eulenarten 6, 313–325.
Klein, R., Bartel-Steinbach, M., Paulus, M., Tarricone, K., Teubner, D., Wagner, G., Weimann, T., Veith, M., Koschorreck, J., 2012. Standartization of egg collection from aquatic birds for biomonitoring – A critical review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46(10), 5273–5284.
Klimov, S.M., 2003. Ekologo-evolucionnye aspekty izmenchiivosti oomorfologicheskih pokazatelej ptic [Ecological and evolutionary aspects of variability of oomorphological indicators birds]. Lipetskij Gos. Ped. Univ., Lipetsk (in Russian).
Kostin, Y.Y., 1977. O metodike oomorfologicheskih issledovanij i unifikacii opisanij oologicheskih materialov [Oomorphologycal methods of research and standardization of descriptions of oology organic materials]. In: Technika issledovaniya produktivnosti i struktury vidov ptic v predelah ih arealov [Technique of research productivity and structure of bird species within their natural habitats]. Vilnus, 14–22 (in Russian).
Liebers, D., Helbig, A.J., De Knij, P., 2001. Genetic differentiation and phylogeography of gulls in the Larus cachinnans-fuscus group (Aves: Charadriiformes). Mol. Ecol. 10(10), 2447–2462.
Mallory, M.L., Robinson, S.A., Forbes, M.R., Hebert, C.E., 2010. Seabirds as indicators of aquatic ecosystem conditions: A case for gathering multiple proxies of seabird health. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 60(1), 7–12.
Mityay, I.S., Matsyura, A.V., 2014. Geometricheskie parametry yaits v sistematike ptits [Geometrical parameters of eggs in bird systematics]. Biological Bulletin of Bogdan Chmelnitskiy Melitopol State Pedagogical University 4(3), 98–108 (in Russian).
Mlíkovský, J., Loskot, V.M., 2013. Neotypification of Larus cachinnans Pallas, 1811 (Aves: Laridae). Zootaxa 3637(4), 478–483.
Neubauer, G., Zagalska-Neubauer, M., Gwiazda, R., Faber, M., Bukaciński, D., Betleja, J., Chylarecki, P., 2006. Breeding large gulls in Poland: Distribution, numbers, trends and hybridization. Vogelwelt 127, 11–22.
Neubauer, G., Zagalska-Neubauer, M., Pons, J.M., Crochet, P.A., Chylarecki, P., Przystalski, A., Gay, L., 2009. Assortative mating without complete reproductive isolation in a zone of recent secondary contact between Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Caspian Gulls (L. cachinnans). Auk 126, 409–419.
Panov, E.N., Monzikov, D.G., 2000. Status of the Barabensis within the “Larus argentatus-cachinnans-fuscus complex”. British Birds 93(5), 227–241.
Pons, J.M., 1992. Effects of changes in the availability of human refuse on breeding parameters of Herring Gull Larus argentataus population in Brittany, France. Ardea 80, 143–150.
Pons, J.-M., Crochet, P.-A., Thery, M., Bermejo, A., 2004. Geografical variation in the yellow-legged gull: Introgression or convergence from the herring gull? J. Zool. Sys. Evol. Res. 42(3), 245–256.
Ramirez, F., Ramos, R., Carrasco, J.L., Sanpera, C., Jover, L., Ruiz, X., 2011. Intra-clutch pattern of albumen delta C-13 and delta N-15 in yellow-legged gulls Larus michahellis: Female dietary shift or resource allocation strategy. J. Avian Biol. 42, 239–246.
Roulin, A., 2004. The evolution, maintenance and adaptive function of genetic colour polymorphism in birds. Biol. Rev. 79(4), 815–848.
Svensson, L.C., Grant, P.J., Mullarney, K., Zetterstrom, D., 2009. Birds Europe. Second edition. Princetone.
Vengerov, P.D., 2001. Èkologicheskie zakonomernosti izmenchivosti i korreliyacii morfologicheskih structur ptic [Environmental variability patterns and correlations of morphological structures of birds]. Voronezhskii Gos. Univ, Voronezh (in Russian).
Walter, D., 2012. Brutbiologie, Phenologie und Bestandsentwicklung einer voralpen Population des Sumpfrohrsangers Acroctphalus palustris in Allgau (Dayern/Deutschland). Ornithologischer Anzeiger 49(2/3), 103–147.
Yablokov, A.V., Larina, N.I., 1985. Vvedenie v fenetiku populiyacij [Introduction to fenetik populations]. Vysshaya Shkola, Moscow (in Russian).
Zagalska-Neubauer, M., Neubauer, G., 2012. Reproductive performance and changes in relative species abundance in a mixed colony of Herring and Caspian Gulls, Larus argentatus and L. cachinnans. Acta Ornithol. 47, 185–194.