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Canadian Loons Added to Database

Information to Aid Study of Botulism in Species

Posted: April 5, 2007
Environment Canada has awarded Amy McMillan, assistant professor of biology, Buffalo State College, a grant of $9,765 (Canadian) to genotype 186 DNA samples from Canadian loons. McMillan will add the information to her database-the most extensive database of genotypes of this native North American bird species-and will provide Environment Canada with a summary of the genetic relationship between the birds from Canada and those from across the United States. "Most of our samples are from birds from the Northeast," said McMillan, "but we have samples from Alaska and the West Coast as well."
This study will provide scientists with more information about botulism in loons, the breeding grounds where diseased birds come from, and what effects the disease has had on the loon population since major botulism outbreaks were first recognized in 1999. Scientists will also learn more about migratory patterns because loons breed in northern North America (Canada and the northernmost states) but migrate in winter mostly to coastal regions along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Although thousands of loons killed by botulism have been picked up from the shores of the Great Lakes since 1999, scientists remain puzzled by the source of the disease.
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