Evol Ecol Res 2: 207-230 (2000)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Optimal digestion strategies in seabirds: A modelling approach

Geoff M. Hilton, Graeme D. Ruxton, Robert W. Furness and David C. Houston

Ornithology Group, Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: g.ruxton@bio.gla.ac.uk


It has been shown that there can be marked differences between seabird species in gut retention times and digestive efficiencies, even when eating the same amounts of the same foods. We use mathematical modelling to explore the relationship between optimal avian digestion strategy and various ecological factors. The key factor determining the performance of a given digestive strategy is an ‘ingestion bottleneck’, which forces individuals to reduce their ingestion rate once their gut is full of digesta. The severity of the bottleneck is related to the retention time of digesta, with the result that an individual’s optimal time and energy management differs according to digestive physiology. The model predicts that rapid (and thus inefficient) digestion is likely to be favoured when the energy cost of commuting between feeding and nesting sites is large, whereas slow (but efficient) digestion is preferable when these costs are small.

Keywords: digestion strategy, digestive efficiency, modelling, retention time, seabirds.

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        © 2000 Graeme D. Ruxton. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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