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J Exp Biol. 2005 Feb;208(Pt 4):761-9.

Effects of physiological state, mass change and diet on plasma metabolite profiles in the western sandpiper Calidris mauri.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, V5A 1S6, Canada.


We used a food restriction/refeeding protocol to put birds through a controlled cycle of mass loss and mass gain to investigate the effects of rate and phase of mass change on plasma metabolite levels in relation to diet. Despite marked differences in fat content of the two diets (18% vs 4%) mean rate of mass loss or mass gain was independent of diet. There was also no effect of diet on plasma levels of any of the four measured metabolite (triglyceride, glycerol, uric acid and beta-OH-butyrate) during mass loss. However, during mass gain birds on the low fat diet had higher plasma levels of triglyceride and uric acid and lower beta-OH-butyrate than birds gaining mass on the high-fat diet. Thus, diet composition can affect plasma metabolite profiles independently of differences in rates of mass change. Nevertheless, certain plasma metabolites were related to variation in rates of mass change across physiological states. Glycerol levels were negatively related to the rate of mass change (independent of diet), and butyrate was negatively related to the rate of mass change on both diets (though the slope of this relationship was diet dependent). Uric acid was positively related to the rate of mass change but only for birds on the low-fat diet. Our study therefore confirms that measurement of plasma metabolites can provide robust information on physiological state (gain, loss) and the rate of mass change (e.g. in free-living birds caught only once) although researchers should be cogniscent of potential confounding effects of diet composition for certain metabolites, both for field studies and for future experimental validations of this technique.

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