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Assessing Avian Diets Using Stable Isotopes I: Turnover of 13C in Tissues

Keith A. Hobson and Robert G. Clark
The Condor
Vol. 94, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 181-188
DOI: 10.2307/1368807
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1368807
Page Count: 8
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Assessing Avian Diets Using Stable Isotopes I: Turnover of 13C in Tissues
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Abstract

Studies of birds that use stable isotopes as dietary tracers require estimates of how quickly stable isotopes in tissues are replaced by isotopes derived from the diet. However, isotopic turnover rates in animals in general, and birds in particular, are poorly understood. We established the turnover rates of 13C in tissues of grown Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica) by switching the diet of an experimental group from a wheat-based (C3) diet to a corn-based (C4) diet and sampled tissues periodically for 212 days. An exponential model described patterns of isotopic turnover in all tissues. Turnover rates for quail tissues were ranked liver > blood > muscle > bone collagen with the half life of carbon ranging from 2.6 days in liver to 173.3 days in bone collagen. A similar diet-switch experiment was conducted on captive American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and feather samples were assayed isotopically. Stable isotope values of crow feathers reflected diet during periods of growth. We suggest that stable isotope analysis could be used to determine relative contributions of endogenous and exogenous nutrient sources for feather growth and egg production in captive and wild birds.

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