Specific fatty acids (FA) such as unsaturated (UFA) and saturated (SFA) fatty acids contained in foods are key factors in the nutritional ecology of birds. By means of a field and experimental approach, we evaluated the effect of diet on the activity of three esterases involved in FA hydrolysis; carboxylesterase (CE: 4-NPA-CE and a-NA-CE) and butyrylcholinesterase, in two South American passerines: the omnivorous rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) and the granivorous common diuca-finch (Diuca diuca). The activity of the three esterases was measured in the intestines of freshly caught individuals over two distinct seasons and also after a chronic intake of a UFA-rich or SFA-rich diet in the laboratory. In turn, we assessed the feeding responses of the birds choosing amongst diets contrasting in the kind of specific FA (UFA- vs. SFA-treated diets). During summer, field CE activities (4-NPA-CE and a-NA-CE) in the small intestine were higher in the rufous-collared sparrow (25.3 ± 3.3 and 81.4 ± 10.8 µmol min(-1) g tissue(-1), respectively) than in the common diuca-finch (10.0 ± 3.0 and 33.9 ± 13.1 µmol min(-1) g tissue(-1), respectively). Two hour feeding trial test indicated that both species exhibited a clear preference for UFA-treated diets. On average, the rufous-collared sparrow consumed 0.46 g 2 h(-1) of UFA-rich diets and 0.12 g 2 h(-1) of SFA-rich diets. In turn, the consumption pattern of the common diuca-finch averaged 0.73 and 0.16 g 2 h(-1) for UFA-rich and SFA-rich diets, respectively. After a month of dietary acclimation to UFA-rich and SFA-rich diets, both species maintained body mass irrespective of the dietary regime. Additionally, the intestinal 4-NPA-CE activity exhibited by birds fed on a UFA-rich or SFA-rich diet was higher in the rufous-collared sparrow (39.0 ± 5.3 and 44.2 ± 7.3 µmol min(-1) g tissue(-1), respectively) than in the common diuca-finch (13.3 ± 1.9 and 11.2 ± 1.4 µmol min(-1) g tissue(-1), respectively). Finally, the intestinal a-NA-CE activity exhibited by the rufous-collared sparrow was about two times higher when consuming an UFA-rich diet. Our results suggest that the rufus-collared sparrow exhibits a greater capacity for intestinal FA hydrolysis, which would allow it to better deal with fats from different sources.
In lizards, one of the most important behavioral mechanisms to cope with spatial and temporal variations in thermal resources observed is activity time. The longer a lizard can maintain activity, the more time it has to forage and reach larger adult body size. We studied the behavioral adjustments to different climatic regimens on daily and seasonal scales in three natural populations of the lizard Microlophus atacamensis along a latitudinal temperature and rainfall gradient. We also used Niche Mapper to determinate the amount of thermally suitable time for activity for this species. Abundance and daily activity patterns varied greatly over the year for the three populations. In summer and spring, the daily activity times were greater, and were reduced in fall and winter seasons. In summer, when stressful heat loads should prohibit activity over a midday gap, lizards did not show bimodal patterns of activity. Instead, they move to the cooler intertidal habitat. Abundance and thermal quality in the southernmost coolest site was lower, and the potential annual activity time decreases with latitude. Contrary to expectations, lizards from this locality showed the largest body sizes possibly due to diet and/or time to sexual maturation. Our results indicate that the intertidal habitat is a key factor that influences daily and seasonal activity of M. atacamensis lizards. While this habitat is not climatically optimal for lizards, it allows them to behaviorally extend their activity window and gain access to food in the intertidal areas.
Mammals exposed to low temperatures increase their metabolic rate to maintain constant body temperature and thus compensate heat loss. This high and costly energetic demand can be mitigated through thermoregulatory behavior such as social grouping or huddling, which helps to decrease metabolic rate as function of the numbers of individuals grouped. Sustained low temperatures in endothermic animals produce changes over time in rates of energy expenditure, by means of phenotypic plasticity. However, the putative modulating effect that huddling exerts on the flexibility of the basal metabolic rate (BMR) due to thermal acclimation remains unknown. We determined BMR values in Octodon degus, an endemic Chilean rodent, after being acclimated either to 15°C or 30°C during 60 days, both alone and in groups of 3 and 5 individuals. At 15°C, BMR of huddling individuals was 40% lower than that of animals housed alone. Moreover, infrared thermography revealed a significant increase in local surface temperatures in huddled animals. Furthermore, individual thermal conductance was lower in individuals acclimated to 15°C than at 30°C, but no differences were observed between single and grouped animals. Our results indicate that huddling prevent an increase in BMR when animals are acclimated to cold conditions and that this effect is proportional to the number of animals grouped.
The climatic variability hypothesis (CVH) states that species are geographically more widespread at higher latitudes because individuals have a broader range of physiological tolerance or phenotypic flexibility as latitude and climatic variability increase. However, it remains unclear to what extent climatic variability or latitude, acting on the phenotype, account for any observed geographical gradient in mean range size. In this study, we analyzed the physiological flexibility within the CVH framework by using an intraspecific population experimental approach. We tested for a positive relationship between digestive-tract flexibility (i.e., morphology and enzyme activities) and latitude and climatic and natural diet variability in populations of rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) captured in desert (27°S), Mediterranean (33°S), and cold-temperate (41°S) sites in Chile. In accordance with the CVH, we observed a positive relationship between the magnitude of digestive-tract flexibility and environmental variability but not latitude. The greatest digestive flexibility was observed in birds at middle latitudes, which experience the most environmental variability (a Mediterranean climate), whereas individuals from the most stable climates (desert and cold-temperate) exhibited little or no digestive-tract flexibility in response to experimental diets. Our findings support the idea that latitudinal gradients in geographical ranges may be strongly affected by the action of regional features, which makes it difficult to find general patterns in the distribution of species.
Digestive capabilities, such as the rates nutrient hydrolysis and absorption, may affect energy intake and ultimately feeding behavior. In birds, a high diversity in gut biochemical capabilities seems to support the existence of a correlation between the morphology and physiology of the intestinal tract and chemical features of the natural diet. However, studies correlating the activity of digestive enzymes and the feeding habits at an evolutionary scale are scarce. We investigated the effect of dietary habits on the digestive physiological characteristics of eight species of passerine birds from Central Chile. The Order Passeriformes is a speciose group with a broad dietary spectrum that includes omnivorous, granivorous and insectivorous species. We measured the activity of three enzymes: maltase, sucrase and aminopeptidase-N. Using an autocorrelation analysis to remove the phylogenetic effect, we found that dietary habits had no effect on enzymatic activity. However, we found that granivorous and omnivorous species had higher levels of disaccharidase activities and insectivores had the lowest. The major difference in enzymatic activity found at the inter-specific level, compared to the reported lower magnitude of enzyme modulation owing to dietary acclimation, suggests that these differences to some extent have a genetic basis. However, the lack of a clear association between diet categories and gut physiology suggested us that dietary categorizations do not always reflect the chemical composition of the ingested food.
The microbiotherid marsupial Dromiciops gliroides inhabits the temperate forests of the Southern hemisphere, facing seasonal nutritional and energetic bottlenecks due to its apparently facultative insectivory/frugivory. In order to understand the physiological processes behind this ecological pattern, we studied the morpho-physiological changes that D. gliroides exhibits after dietary acclimation, in a sample of 21 wild-caught individuals fed over 1 month with ad libitum diet of: (1) fruit, (2) insects or (3) a mix of insects and fruit. In addition, we measured oxygen consumption (VO(2)) at resting conditions. We also performed enzyme assays (sucrase, maltase, trehalase and aminopeptidase N) and measurements of organ morphology. We found that D. gliroides cannot fulfil its nutrient requirements only from insects or fruit. It needs a mixed diet in order to maintain its body mass and energy balance. However, as a response of diet acclimation, individuals showed several-fold changes in the activities of aminopeptidase-N, maltase and sucrase (but not trehalase). This result, both the magnitude of change and the simultaneous effects on three enzymes suggests that D. gliroides could exhibit adaptive phenotypic plasticity in the activity of intestinal enzymes. This study suggests also that D. gliroides, the only living representative of the Microbiotheria order, exhibits physiological adaptations to a generalist diet.
Our planet is undergoing fast environmental changes, which are referred as global change. In this new scenario, it is of paramount relevance to understand the mechanistic basis of animal responses to environmental change. Here we analyze to what extent seasonal changes in the digestive function of the lizard Liolaemus moradoensis is under endogenous (i.e., hard wired) or exogenous (i.e., environmentally determined) control. For this purpose we compared animals collected in the field during autumn, winter and summer, against (experimental) specimens collected in the field at the beginning of autumn and reared in the laboratory under simulated summer conditions until winter. We found that different aspects of the digestive function are under different types of control: small intestine length appears to be under endogenous control (i.e., experimental animals were similar to winter animals), small intestine mass appears to be under exogenous control (i.e., experimental animals were similar to summer animals), and specific enzyme activities did not change throughout the year. Thus, we suspect that processes related with gut length, such as cell division, may be under endogenous control, while others related with gut mass, such as enterocyte size and content, may be determined by exogenous factors, such as the presence of food in the intestinal lumen. Faced with accelerated changing conditions, the ability of vertebrates to cope will be closely related with their plasticity in fitness-associated traits. More studies aimed at determining the levels and limits of physiological flexibility will be necessary to understand this phenomenon.
Bird species exhibit great diversity in digestive tract morphology and enzymatic activity that is partly correlated with the chemical composition of their natural diets. However, no studies have assessed whether the activities of digestive enzymes of the enterocytes correlate with dietary chemical composition data analyzed as a continuous variable at an evolutionary scale. We used a phylogenetically explicit approach to examine the effect of diet on the hydrolytic activity of three digestive enzymes (maltase, sucrase, and aminopeptidase-N) in 16 species of songbirds (Order Passeriformes) from Central Chile. The total activities (?mol/min) of these enzymes were positively associated with body mass using both conventional least squares regressions and phylogenetically independent contrasts. After removing mass effects, we found a significant negative correlation between the ratio of aminopeptidase-N and maltase to the proportion of seeds found in the gizzard, but this relationship was no longer significant after controlling for phylogeny. When we analyzed the specific nutritional content of the diet, we found that the percentage of nitrogen in diet was negatively correlated with residual maltase activity and positively correlated with the ratio aminopeptidase-N/maltase. Given the large interspecific differences in biochemical capacity, we conclude that these differences reflect genetically determined evolutionary changes associated with the nutrient contents of each species natural diet.
The understanding of animal functioning in fluctuating environments is a major goal of physiological and evolutionary ecology. In temperate terrestrial habitats, one of the most pervasive changes in environmental conditions is that associated with the seasonal change along the year. In this study, we describe the pattern of seasonal variation in the size of nine internal organs in the lizard Liolaemus moradoensis from the Andes Mountains of Central Chile. We observed that the size of digestive organs was greater during summer in comparison to other seasons. Dry masses of liver and fat bodies reached maximum values during summer and minimum during spring. We suspect that lowest spring values are related with build-up costs of energetically expensive organs (e.g., digestive, muscle mass) at the end of the hibernation period. Dry mass of the heart and lungs did not show a clear pattern of variation, suggesting that cardiac and pulmonary performance were maintained throughout the year. The dry mass of kidneys was greater during winter than during summer, a result observed in other hibernating lizards but for which there is no clear explanation. Finally, the dry mass of testes showed a maximum value during autumn and a progressive reduction toward summer, indicating that reproduction occurs during autumn. When represented in a bivariate space, acquisition (digestive), distribution (heart, lungs and kidneys), storage (liver and fat bodies), and expenditure (testes) organs generate four clusters. In general terms, observed seasonal pattern of change in organ size is in agreement with those reported for other lizard species that inhabit highly fluctuating environments.
The flexibility of digestive traits characterizes a standard model of physiological flexibility, demonstrating that animals adjust their digestive attributes in order to maximize overall energy return. Using an intraspecific experimental study, we evaluated the amount of flexibility in digestive tract mass and length in individuals from field mouse populations inhabiting semi-arid and temperate rain forest habitats and acclimated for six months to diets of different qualities. In accordance with the predictions of the theory of digestion, we observed a highly significant relationship between dietary variability and digestive flexibility in both specific digestive chambers and in the total digestive tract mass and length. Specifically, we found higher digestive plasticity in response to diet quality in rodents inhabiting southern temperate ecosystems with higher dietary variability in comparison to individuals from northern semi-arid habitats.
In this report, we explore the matching of structures to functional needs by comparing previously reported data of maximal oxygen consumption and the development of the lung in the leaf-eared mouse Phyllotis darwini in warm and cold environments. We discuss whether the state of structural design is commensurate with functional needs from regulated morphogenesis as predicted by the hypothesis of symmorphosis. We found a close match between respiratory structures and functional needs during postnatal development, expressed as safety factors close to unity. However, in the adult stage the safety factors were greater than two, which suggests that adult animals acquired a structure greater than that required considering their maximum capacities. A high safety factor in the respiratory system of adult mice may be a consequence of the symmorphosis that operates during ontogeny and does not necessarily support a rejection of this hypothesis.
The food habit hypothesis (FHH) predicts that mass-independent BMR is associated with dietary traits. In spite of decades of research, the FHH remains controversial, in part because ambiguities surrounding diet categorization can potentially confound interpretations from interspecific analyses of the relative importance of diet quality. In this study, we investigated possible relationships between BMR and the percentage of nitrogen, and the percentage of various prey items in the gut content of 19 passerine species under an explicit phylogenetic context. There were no significant effects of the percentage of dietary nitrogen, invertebrates, or plants on mass-independent BMR using either conventional or phylogenetically corrected regressions. Consequently, our results do not support the FHH in passerine birds. The lack of a significant correlation between diet and BMR could be explained by generally similar levels of activity and similar body composition among species. In this sense, it is possible that the impact of food habits could depend mainly on body mass, which is also associated to the high cost of the endothermy at small sizes.
Shifts in feeding ecology are believed to promote island-mainland divergence. The lizard Liolaemus pictus has several different subspecies on Chilean islands and mainland. These subspecies inhabit contrastingly different habitats both in different islands and mainland, which suggests the potential for habitat related dietary variation. We investigated the dietary habits of L. pictus by both stomach content analyses and by nitrogen stable isotope analyses (delta(15)N), which we used as a proxy variable for trophic level. We also compared the morphology of the digestive tract and the activity of intestinal digestive enzymes of mainland and island lizards. We hypothesized differences in diet and trophic level among populations and that these differences would predict the expression of the morphological and biochemical features of the digestive tract. More specifically, we predicted shorter intestines and higher levels of peptidases in more insectivorous than in more frugivorous/herbivorous lizards. The diet of L. pictus was characterized by the consumption of a wide diversity of food types, including fruit and insects, in all populations. Stable isotopes revealed higher trophic level, and hence probably higher protein intake, in mainland than in island populations, but contrary to our prediction, they had shorter intestines and higher relative activity of intestinal peptidases than mainland lizards. Furthermore, the proportion of fruit items in the stomach content was higher in the population that exhibited the lowest tropic level. These results suggest that morphological and physiological differences among populations of L. pictus are not correlated with feeding ecology, suggesting that the lizards first responses to the selective pressure represented by a diet shift are behavioral.
Exposure and effect assessment of organophosphate (OP) pesticides generally involves the use of cholinesterase (ChE) inhibition. In earthworm, this enzyme activity is often measured in homogenates from the whole organism. Here we examine the tissue-specific response of ChE and carboxylesterase (CE) activities in Lumbricus terrestris experimentally exposed to chlorpyrifos-spiked field soils. Esterases were measured in different gut segments and in the seminal vesicles of earthworms following acute exposure (2 d) to the OP and during 35d of a recovery period. We found that inhibition of both esterase activities was dependent on the tissue. Cholinesterase activity decreased in the pharynx, crop, foregut and seminal vesicles in a concentration-dependent way, whereas CE activity (4-nitrophenyl valerate) was strongly inhibited in these tissues. Gizzard CE activity was not inhibited by the OP, even an increase of enzyme activity was evident during the recovery period. These results suggest that both esterases should be determined jointly in selected tissues of earthworms. Moreover, the high levels of gut CE activity and its inhibition and recovery dynamic following OP exposure suggest that this esterase could play an important role as an enzymatic barrier against OP uptake from the ingested contaminated soil.
One of the most controversial hypotheses that associate basal metabolic rate (BMR) with food habits and habitat productivity is the food habit hypothesis (FHH). Here we examined the relationship between BMR, diet, and climate among populations of the omnivorous passerine, Zonotrichia capensis (Emberizidae). We used nitrogen stable isotopes to estimate each individuals relative trophic level. To tease apart the effect of climatic variables and diet on BMR, we also used structural equation modeling. After the effect of body mass and climatic variables was taken into account, a significant effect of trophic level as estimated by delta(15)N on BMR was found. Our result seems to support the FHH at the intraspecific level, i.e., birds from the lower trophic levels - feeding on seeds and bud - had higher BMR than individuals from higher trophic levels.
Hibernation in ectothermic animals was historically considered as a simple cold-induced torpor state resulting from the inability to maintain a high body temperature at low ambient temperatures. During the last decades this vision changed and nowadays there is a myriad of studies showing that hibernation implies different adjustments at the genetic, molecular, biochemical and cellular levels. However, studies oriented to evaluate changes of whole organism structure and physiology still are scarce, which is particularly true for amphibians that hibernate on land. Accordingly, in the Andean toad (Bufo spinulosus), we investigated the effect of short-term fasting and hibernation on the hydrolytic activity of digestive enzymes, histology of the small intestine, gross morphology of digestive and other internal organs and standard metabolic rate. Based on the pattern of size variation, internal organs may be grouped into those that were affected by both season and feeding condition (small intestine, stomach and liver), those that were only affected by season (fat bodies), those that were only affected by feeding condition (kidneys) and, finally, those that did not change between the three groups (large intestine, heart and lungs). Hydrolytic activity of maltase, trehalase and aminopeptidase-N followed the same pattern of variation (feeding > fasting > hibernating toads), although the change for the latter enzyme was less noticeable than for the disaccharidases. Enzymatic adjustments were correlated with changes in small intestine histology: villus and enterocyte height increased from hibernating to fasting and more markedly from fasting to feeding toads. Metabolic rate decreased during hibernation to 7.8% (at 5 degrees C) and 13.6% (at 15 degrees C) of summer values, which is one of the highest metabolic depressions reported for any ectothermic vertebrate. Our results suggest that amphibian persistence in highly seasonal environments is related to a large capacity of phenotypic flexibility at different organisational levels; an ability that may be related to the extensive ranges of temporal existence and geographic distribution of these vertebrates.
A large number of physiological acclimation studies assume that flexibility in a certain trait is both adaptive and functionally important for organisms in their natural environment; however, it is not clear how an organisms capacity for temperature acclimation translates to the seasonal acclimatization that these organisms must accomplish. To elucidate this relationship, we measured BMR and TEWL rates in both field-acclimatized and laboratory-acclimated adult rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis). Measurements in field-acclimatized birds were taken during the winter and summer seasons; in the laboratory-acclimated birds, we took our measurements following 4 weeks at either 15 or 30 degrees C. Although BMR and TEWL rates did not differ between winter and summer in the field-acclimatized birds, laboratory-acclimated birds exposed to 15 degrees C exhibited both a higher BMR and TEWL rate when compared to the birds acclimated to 30 degrees C and the field-acclimatized birds. Because organ masses seem to be similar between field and cold-acclimated birds whereas BMR is higher in cold-acclimated birds, the variability in BMR cannot be explained completely by adjustments in organ masses. Our findings suggest that, although rufous-collared sparrows can exhibit thermal acclimation of physiological traits, sparrows do not use this capacity to cope with minor to moderate fluctuations in environmental conditions. Our data support the hypothesis that physiological flexibility in energetic traits is a common feature of avian metabolism.
The urine field osmolality in Zonotrichia capensis along a latitudinal gradient in rainfall and temperature in Chile was examined. We also investigated latitudinal variation in the renal traits that mediate how these birds cope with dehydration. We used the delta15N of this species tissue to investigate whether the reliance on animals and seeds varied among birds and if it had any effect on excretion and renal traits. We found a significant latitudinal variation in urine osmolality, a variable that was correlated with habitat aridity. We also found that the kidney size and proportion of kidney devoted to medullary tissue differed between birds from arid and mesic localities, but not in a lineal fashion with aridity. The increment in the position in the food web, as measured by delta15N, led to an increment in urine osmolality, without changes in kidney features. Our data suggested that differences in dietary habits in the field could be not extended enough to cause changes in the kidney structure in Rufous-collared sparrows.
By comparing the isotopic composition of tissues deposited at different times, we can identify individuals that shift diets over time and individuals with constant diets. We define an individual as an isotopic specialist if tissues deposited at different times have similar isotopic composition. If tissues deposited at different times differ in isotopic composition we define an individual as an isotopic generalist. Individuals can be dietary generalists but isotopic specialists if they feed on the same resource mixture at all times. We assessed the degree of isotopic and dietary specialization in three related Chilean bird species that occupy coastal and/or freshwater environments: Cinclodes oustaleti, Cinclodes patagonicus, and Cinclodes nigrofumosus. C. oustaleti individuals were both isotopic and dietary generalists. Tissues deposited in winter (liver and muscle) had distinct stable C (delta(13)C) and stable N isotope ratio (delta(15)N) values from tissues deposited in the summer (wing feathers) suggesting that birds changed the resources that they used seasonally from freshwater habitats in the summer to coastal habitats in the winter. Although the magnitude of seasonal isotopic change was high, the direction of isotopic change varied little among individuals. C. patagonicus included both isotopic specialists and generalists, as well as dietary specialists and generalists. The isotopic composition of the feathers and liver of some C. patagonicus individuals was similar, whereas that of others differed. In C. patagonicus, there were large inter-individual differences in the magnitude and the direction of seasonal isotopic change. All individuals of C. nigrofumosus were both isotopic and dietary specialists. The distribution of delta(13)C and delta(15)N values overlapped broadly among tissues and clustered in a small, and distinctly intertidal, region of delta space. Assessing individual specialization and unraveling the factors that influence it, have been key questions in animal ecology for decades. Stable isotope analyses of several tissues in appropriate study systems provide an unparalleled opportunity to answer them.
One of the most fundamental questions in organismal ecology is how animals work in a continuously changing environment. In order to contribute to the current understanding of this question, this study evaluated seasonal changes in digestive enzymes activities, organs size, and energy reserves in Liolaemus nigroviridis, a medium-size lizard that inhabit extreme environments in the Andes range. We found that digestive enzymes (trehalase, maltase, and aminopeptidase-N) hydrolytic activities, dry masses of digestive organs and liver, and energy reserve (dry mass of fat bodies and tail energy density) were greater during summer than during winter months. By contrast, dry mass of the kidneys, lungs, heart, and gonads were greater during winter (though significance was reach only for the last two organs). In summary, obtained results reinforce the idea that hibernation is connected with phenotypic adjustments at different organizational levels, which in turn, potentially affects rates of energy acquisition and expenditure, organisms fitness, and, ultimately, ecological and evolutionary success of species living in highly seasonal environments. We suggest that, owing to the pressing need to explain and predict the impact of climatic change on the biota, more studies destined to determine the levels and limits of physiological flexibility are necessary.
Recent experiments on shorebirds have demonstrated that maintaining an active osmoregulatory machinery is energetically expensive. This may, in part, explain diet and habitat selection in birds with salt glands. However little is known about the osmoregulatory costs in birds lacking functional salt glands. In these birds, osmotic work is done almost exclusively by the kidneys. We investigated the osmoregulatory cost in a bird species lacking functional salt glands, the passerine Zonotrichia capensis. After 20 days of acclimation to fresh water (FW) and salt water (200 mM NaCl, SW), SW birds tended to be heavier than FW birds. However, this difference was not statistically significant. Total basal metabolic rate was higher in SW birds as compared with FW birds. Renal and heart masses were also higher in the SW group. We also found greater medullary development and an increase in urine osmolality in the SW group. In spite of Z. capensis ability to tolerate a moderate salt load in the laboratory, we hypothesize that increased cost of maintenance produced by salt consumption may significantly affect energy budget, dietary, and habitat choices in the field.
Increasing research has attempted to clarify the links between animal personality and physiology. However, the mechanisms driving this association remain largely unknown, and knowledge of how ecological factors may affect its direction and strength is scant. In this study, we quantified variation in the association between exploratory behavior, basal metabolic rate (BMR), and total evaporative water loss (TEWL) in rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) inhabiting desert, Mediterranean, and cold-temperate climates. We found that the exploratory behavior score was highest in birds from the cold-temperate site, which was characterized by a moderate level of ecological variability (seasonality). Moreover, the association between exploratory behavior and physiological variables differed among localities. Only birds from the Mediterranean site showed a positive correlation between exploratory behavior and BMR. We found no association between exploration and TEWL at any study site. Our findings suggest that differences in the ecological conditions experienced by each sparrow population result in a particular combination of behavioral and physiological traits. An understanding of this intraspecific variation along ecological gradients provides unique insights into how specific ecological conditions affect the coupling of behavioral and physiological traits and the mechanisms underlying that relationship.
We analyzed the carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of the muscle, liver, and crop contents ("diet") of 132 individuals of 16 species of Chilean birds. The nitrogen content of diet was tightly correlated with the fraction of gut contents represented by insects relative to plant material. The carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of diet, liver, and muscle were all linearly correlated, implying high temporal consistency in the isotopic value of the diet of these birds. However, ?(15)N was not significantly related with the percentage of insects in diet. These results cast doubt on the applicability of the use of (15)N enrichment to diagnose trophic level in, at least some, terrestrial ecosystems. However, the residuals of the relationship relating the isotopic value of bird tissues with those of their diet were weakly negatively correlated with insect intake. We hypothesize that this negative correlation stems from the higher quality of protein found in insects relative to that of plant materials. Finally, our data corroborated a perplexing and controversial negative relationship between tissue to diet isotopic discrimination and the isotopic value of diet. We suggest that this relationship is an example of the commonly observed regression to the mean effect that plagues many scientific studies.
We studied the renal morphology of 16 species of passerines to assess whether the composition of the diet of birds have been paralleled by differences in the characteristics of the kidneys. We determined the number and length of the medullary cones and the percentage of renal medulla in birds with contrasting dietary habits and then correlated these features with the percentage of nitrogen and proportion of invertebrates in the diet. To examine the correlation between kidney and diet variables, we first used standard correlation and least square regression, and correlation and regression on phylogenetically independent data. We found that the mass of the medullary portion of the kidney, and the medullary cone length were negatively correlated with the percentage of invertebrates present in the diet. We hypothesized that the further development of the renal medulla observed in granivorous birds may be correlated with the small amount of water present in the seeds. Our results suggest that the availability of water in different foods is probably one of the main factors that have led to structural and probably functional changes of the kidney in the studied species.
Phenotypic flexibility in metabolic rates allows organisms to reversibly adjust their energy flow to meet challenges imposed by a variable environment. In turn, the food habits hypothesis (FHH) predicts that species or populations adjust their basal metabolic rate (BMR) according to the diet attributes such as food abundance or predictability. Desert ecosystems represent a temporally heterogeneous environment because of low rain pulse predictability, which is also associated with temporal variation in food resources. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between the magnitude of BMR flexibility in response to dietary acclimation and the inter-annual rainfall variability in three populations of rufous-collared sparrows. Specifically we addressed the question of whether birds from a desert environment are more flexible in BMR than those from non-desert habitats. We found a positive trend between BMR flexibility and the inter-annual rainfall variability. In fact, dietary treatments had a significant effect only in desert birds, a result that also supported the FHH. Our study confirms the existence of phenotypic variation in response to environmental conditions among populations, and also highlights the importance of considering the circumstances in which phenotypic flexibility evolves and the specific environmental cues that induce their expression.
Related JoVE Video
Journal of Visualized Experiments
What is Visualize?
JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.
How does it work?
We use abstracts found on PubMed and match them to JoVE videos to create a list of 10 to 30 related methods videos.
Video X seems to be unrelated to Abstract Y...
In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.