To pluck or not to pluck: scientific methodologies should be carefully chosen, not ‘one size fits all’

Authors

  • Todd E. Katzner,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Maria Wheeler,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Juan Jose Negro,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Yula Kapetanakos,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • J. Andrew DeWoody,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Marton Horvath,

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Irby Lovette

    1. Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

T. E. Katzner, Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506, USA, and USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, Parsons, WV, USA. E-mail: todd.katzner@mail.wvu.edu

Abstract

McDonald and Griffith (2011) raise important points in their critique of reliance on feathers as a source of DNA for scientific research. Although those authors are right about many details, their one-size-fits all approach (i.e. prescribing blood draws for avian DNA analyses) obscures bigger picture issues that are of extraordinary relevance to avian biology. We introduce four points to provide alternative perspectives on their commentary. In particular, we feel that a) scientific goals should determine methodologies; b) stress to animals is context specific and blood sampling is not always less stressful to birds than feather plucking; c) feather DNA is too valuable to be ignored, especially when coupled with other analyses that require feathers; and d) logistical and other concerns often preclude blood sampling. A one size fits all approach to science is generally short-sighted, be it in regard to the collection of genetic or other samples from birds, or to a suite of other research problems.

Ancillary