Date of this Version
Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, New Series No 65; Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem 1961.
The present volume on the Fauna of the USSR deals with birds of the suborder Alcae and has appeared after a considerable interval. Like the four preceding parts (published between 1937 and 1947 and devoted to the study of birds) it is based mainly on investigations of collected material kept at the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR* (referred to in the text both as ZIN AN or the Zoological Institute). The various chapters of the book are written in the same order as are the previous parts. With respect to individual features, considerably more attention is paid to functional- morphological analysis as well as to a more elaborate characterization of species; the plumage is also described in greater detail with regard to seasonal changes and age differences. The attached bibliography, though not complete, nevertheless contains the most important works on the subject. The photographs were provided by K. A. Yudin and the drawings prepared by N. N. Kondakov and V. S. Rozhdestvenskaya.
To the suborder Alcae belong sea birds which are closely related to gulls but are adapted to aquatic conditions to a much greater extent and are less associated with terrestrial and aerial life. Alcae, which feed exclusively on pelagic animals and predominantly on fish, have become highly specialized in swimming, diving and moving swiftly under water by means of their wings. This is extremely useful for catching prey. Adaptation to underwater swimming brought about some essential structural modifications in the Alcae during the formative period of the group, particularly in the structure and distribution of the feather cover, the morphology of almost every skeletal part, and in certain muscular systems and internal organs. Alcae have streamlined bodies--narrow and elongated; the wings are short and generally narrow. These features greatly facilitate underwater movement in a relatively dense medium. The tail is short (Figure 1). In flight and diving the legs are stretched backward and function as steering and brake apparatus, thus compensating to some extent for the shortness of the tail feathers. The three front toes (especially the middle one) are comparatively long and are united by swimming membranes, which reach the front edges of the distal phalanges or half of the toe length; the hind toe is either absent or rudimentary.
For a short biography of the author, see http://birdsmongolia.blogspot.com/2012/02/elizabethv.html