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Tracking the fate of digesta 13C and 15N compositions along the ruminant gastrointestinal tract: Does digestion influence the relationship between diet and faeces?


Codron, D; Sponheimer, M; Codron, J; Hammer, S; Tschuor, A; Braun, U; Bernasconi, S M; Clauss, Marcus (2012). Tracking the fate of digesta 13C and 15N compositions along the ruminant gastrointestinal tract: Does digestion influence the relationship between diet and faeces? European Journal of Wildlife Research, 58(1):303-313.

Abstract

Faecal stable isotope compositions reflect wildlife diets, if digestive processes along the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) do not alter diet–faeces isotopic relationships in an unpredictable way.We investigated 13C and 15N compositions of digesta along the ruminant GIT, using Saanen dairy goats kept on pure grass hay or browse for >20 days. Isotopic changes occurred in the ventral rumen, and in the small intestine, where digesta had significantly higher δ13C and δ15N (associated with lower C or higher N content, respectively) values relative to other GIT sites. However, effects on isotope fractionation were small (∼1.0‰ for δ13C and∼2.0‰ for δ15N), and were reversed in the hindgut such that faecal isotope compositions did not differ from the foregut. No other substantial isotopic changes occurred across GIT sites, despite the morphophysiological complexity of the ruminant GIT. We found similarly small differences across GIT components of rheem gazelles (Gazella leptoceros) fed a mixture of C3 lucerne and C4 grass, although in this case faeces were 15N-depleted relative to other GIT components. Along with differences in δ15N between goats fed browse or grass, this result implies a systematic difference in diet–faeces δ15N relationships, contingent on the botanical composition of ruminant diets. Thus, while our results support faecal δ13C as a reliable proxy for wildlife diets, further work on factors influencing faecal 15N abundance is needed. Finally, we note high levels of isotopic variability between individuals fed the same diets, even accounting for the relatively short duration of the experiments, suggesting an important influence of stochasticity on isotope fractionation.

Faecal stable isotope compositions reflect wildlife diets, if digestive processes along the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) do not alter diet–faeces isotopic relationships in an unpredictable way.We investigated 13C and 15N compositions of digesta along the ruminant GIT, using Saanen dairy goats kept on pure grass hay or browse for >20 days. Isotopic changes occurred in the ventral rumen, and in the small intestine, where digesta had significantly higher δ13C and δ15N (associated with lower C or higher N content, respectively) values relative to other GIT sites. However, effects on isotope fractionation were small (∼1.0‰ for δ13C and∼2.0‰ for δ15N), and were reversed in the hindgut such that faecal isotope compositions did not differ from the foregut. No other substantial isotopic changes occurred across GIT sites, despite the morphophysiological complexity of the ruminant GIT. We found similarly small differences across GIT components of rheem gazelles (Gazella leptoceros) fed a mixture of C3 lucerne and C4 grass, although in this case faeces were 15N-depleted relative to other GIT components. Along with differences in δ15N between goats fed browse or grass, this result implies a systematic difference in diet–faeces δ15N relationships, contingent on the botanical composition of ruminant diets. Thus, while our results support faecal δ13C as a reliable proxy for wildlife diets, further work on factors influencing faecal 15N abundance is needed. Finally, we note high levels of isotopic variability between individuals fed the same diets, even accounting for the relatively short duration of the experiments, suggesting an important influence of stochasticity on isotope fractionation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Farm Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:02 Apr 2012 09:09
Last Modified:13 Sep 2016 07:59
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1439-0574
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-011-0581-3
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-58105

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