Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Alometric variations during growth in seven species of egrets and herons (Aves: Ardeidae)
PDF (Español (España))
HTML (Español (España))


wading bird

How to Cite

Denis, D. (2017). Alometric variations during growth in seven species of egrets and herons (Aves: Ardeidae). Revista De Biología Tropical, 65(4), 1347–1357.


The order Ciconiiformes include wading bird species of sizes from medium to high, with body growth dynamic that can be analyzed to enlighten micro evolutionary trends. Egrets and herons (family Ardeidae) evolved from a common ancestor, but there are differences in adult body shapes, and their evolution has been suggested to be based on heterochronic processes. However, previous researches on growth have focused only in lineal dimension, and alometric changes have not been studied. In the current paper I described changes in body proportions during growth in seven ardeid species, and analyzed body growth under a phylogenetic point of view, to identify the primitive morphology pattern among genus Butorides and Nycticorax. For this purpose, I calculated bill/tarsus rate in 353 nestlings, measured between 1998 and 2006, and assessed their changes with age and body weight. All species showed marked differences in proportion changes extension between hatching and an analogous growth moment, except Bubulcus that grows almost isometrically. Alometric changes during growth and at hatch, generate a differential growth that produced the different adult morphologies expressed among egrets and herons. The general trends were toward a slight increase in the middle of the growth period up to a lowering to almost the same initial proportions. Growth in the first life stages tends to be more isometric and differences get higher latter in growth. The hypothesis of Nycticorax as peramorphic morfotype is more parsimonious with changes trends in the group, resulting in a relative extremities extension with positive alometry in bill and tarsus in all species. This hypothesis is consistent with a gradual hipermorphosis that reaches a maximum expression in Ardea.
PDF (Español (España))
HTML (Español (España))


Acosta, M., Mugica, L., & Martínez, P. (1990). Segregación del subnicho trófico en seis especies de Ciconiformes. Ciencias Biológicas, 23, 68-81.

Acosta, M., Mugica, L., & Denis, D. (2002). Dinámica de los principales gremios de aves que habitan la arrocera sur del Jíbaro, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. El Pitirre, 15(1), 25-30.

American Ornithologists’ Union (A. O. U.). (1998). Check-list of North American birds (7th ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union.

Cobo, J., Fouces, V., González-Martín, M., Pedrocchi, V., & Ruiz, X. (2000). Non-heterochronic developmental changes underlie morphological heterochrony in the evolution of the Ardeidae. Journal of Evolution Biology, 13, 269-276.

Custer, T. W., & Peterson Jr., D. W. (1991). Growth rates of great egret, snowy egret, and black-crowned night-heron chicks. Colonial Waterbird, 14, 46-50.

Denis, D. (2011). Patrones de crecimiento postnatal en ocho especies de garzas (Aves: Ardeidae). Revista de Biología Tropical, 59(2), 771-787.

Denis, D. & Ponce de León, J. L. (2006). Ecología reproductiva de la garza rojiza Egretta rufescens (Aves: Ardeidae) en la ciénaga de Birama. Biología, 20(1-2), 17-23.

Denis, D., Rodríguez, A., Rodríguez, P., & Jiménez, A. (2003). Reproducción de la garza ganadera (Bubulcus ibis) en la ciénaga de Birama, Cuba. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 16(1), 45-54.

Denis, D., Mugica, L., & Acosta, M. (2000). Morfometría y alimentación del aguaitacaimán (Butorides virescens) en las arroceras del sur del Jíbaro. Biología, 14(2), 133-140.

Denis, D., Rodríguez, S., Antunez, O., & Fortes, H. (2009). Reproduction of green heron (Butorides virescens) in Birama Swamp, Cuba. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 22, 83-89.

Freymann, B. P., & Schuchmann, K. L. (2008). Postnatal growth rates of hummingbirds: review and new records. Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 120, 884-887.

Hudson, J. W., Dawson, W. R., & Hill, R. W. (1974). Growth and development of temperature regulation in nestling cattle egrets. Comparative Biochemestry and Physics A., 49, 717-741.

Kushlan, J. A. (1977). Diferential growth of body parts in the white ibis. Auk, 94(1), 164-167.

McCracken, K. G., & Sheldon, F. H. (1998). Molecular and osteological heron phylogenies: sources of incongruence. Auk, 115, 127-141.

Mugica, L., Acosta, M., & Denis, D. (2003). Variaciones espacio temporales y uso del hábitat por la comunidad de aves de la arrocera sur del Jíbaro, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Biología, 17(2), 105-113.

O’Connor, R. J. (1984). The growth and developments of birds. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Payne, R. B., & Risley, C. J. (1976). Systematics and evolutionary relationships among the herons (Ardeidae). Miscellaneus Publication, University Michigan Museum Zoology, 150, 1-15.

Raff, A. R. (1996). The shape of life. Genes, development, and the evolution of animal form. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rice, S. H. (1997). The analysis of ontogenetic trajectories: When a change in size or shape is not heterochrony. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 94, 907-912.

Ricklefs, R. E. (1973). Patterns of growth in birds II. Growth rate and mode of development. Ibis, 115, 177-201.

Ricklefs, R. E. (1979a). Adaptation, constraint, and compromise in avian postnatal development. Biological Review, 54, 269-290.

Ricklefs, R. E. (1979b). Patterns of growth in birds. V. A comparative study of development in the starling, common tern, and japanese quail. Auk, 96, 1030.

Sheldon, F. H. (1987). Phylogeny of herons estimated from DNA-DNA hibridization data. Auk, 104, 97-108.

Sheldon, F. H., Jones, C. E., & McCracken, K. G. (2000). Relative patterns and rates of evolution in heron nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 17(3), 437-450.

Siegfried, W. R. (1973). Food requirements and growth of cattle egret in South Africa. Living Bird, 11, 193-206.

Thompson, D’ A. W. (1942). On growth and form. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.

Werschkul, D. F. (1979). Nestling mortality and the adaptative significance of early locomotion in the Little Blue Heron. Auk, 96, 116-130.



Download data is not yet available.