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When animals are not quite what they eat: diet digestibility influences 13C-incorporation rates and apparent discrimination in a mixed-feeding herbivore


Codron, D; Codron, J; Sponheimer, M; Bernasconi, S M; Clauss, Marcus (2011). When animals are not quite what they eat: diet digestibility influences 13C-incorporation rates and apparent discrimination in a mixed-feeding herbivore. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 89:453-465.

Abstract

The stable carbon isotope composition of animal tissues represents the weighted sum of the variety of food sources eaten. If sources differ in digestibility, tissues may overrepresent intake of more digestible items and faeces may overrepresent less digestible items. We tested this idea using whole blood and faeces of goats (Capra hircus L., 1758) fed different food mixtures of C3 lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) and C4 grass (Themeda triandra Forssk.). Although blood and faecal d13C values were broadly consistent with diet, results indicate mismatch between consumer and diet isotope compositions: both materials overrepresented the C3 (lucerne) component of diets. Lucerne had lower fibre digestibility than T. triandra, which explains the results for faeces, whereas underrepresentation of dietary C4 in blood is consistent with low protein content of the grass hay. A diet switch experiment revealed an important difference in 13C-incorporation rates across diets, which were slower for grass than lucerne diets, and in fact equilibrium states were not reached for all diets. Although more research is needed to link digestive kinetics with isotope incorporation, these results provide evidence for nonlinear relationships between consumers and their diets, invoking concerns about the conceptual value of “discrimination factors” as the prime currency for contemporary isotope ecology.

Abstract

The stable carbon isotope composition of animal tissues represents the weighted sum of the variety of food sources eaten. If sources differ in digestibility, tissues may overrepresent intake of more digestible items and faeces may overrepresent less digestible items. We tested this idea using whole blood and faeces of goats (Capra hircus L., 1758) fed different food mixtures of C3 lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) and C4 grass (Themeda triandra Forssk.). Although blood and faecal d13C values were broadly consistent with diet, results indicate mismatch between consumer and diet isotope compositions: both materials overrepresented the C3 (lucerne) component of diets. Lucerne had lower fibre digestibility than T. triandra, which explains the results for faeces, whereas underrepresentation of dietary C4 in blood is consistent with low protein content of the grass hay. A diet switch experiment revealed an important difference in 13C-incorporation rates across diets, which were slower for grass than lucerne diets, and in fact equilibrium states were not reached for all diets. Although more research is needed to link digestive kinetics with isotope incorporation, these results provide evidence for nonlinear relationships between consumers and their diets, invoking concerns about the conceptual value of “discrimination factors” as the prime currency for contemporary isotope ecology.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:09 Jun 2011 10:16
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 08:25
Publisher:National Research Council Canada
ISSN:0008-4301
Additional Information:© NRC Research Press, 2011
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1139/Z11-010

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