Sunlight on Feathers Inhibits Feather Degrading Bacteria
The Wilson Journal of Ornithology
We studied the effect of sunlight (280–750 nm) on Bacillus licheniformis, a feather-degrading bacterium that commonly occurs in the plumage of birds. Colony-forming units (a measure of bacterial abundance) of B. licheniformis were numerous on feathers inoculated with B. licheniformis and shielded from all sunlight, whereas colony-forming units were significantly less common on inoculated feathers exposed to full spectrum sunlight and sunlight from which the shorter ultra-violet wavelengths were blocked. Sunlight appears to inhibit the growth of feather-degrading bacilli. Given that many avian species sun themselves and that feather-degrading bacilli occur commonly in avian plumage, we suggest that regulation of potentially harmful plumage microorganisms through exposure to sunlight could be one reason that birds sunbathe.
Burtt, Edward H. Jr. and Saranathan, Vinodkumar, "Sunlight on Feathers Inhibits Feather Degrading Bacteria" (2007). Zoology Faculty Work. 69.
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