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Diet, habitat and flight characteristics correlate with intestine length in birds

Duque-Correa, MJ, Clauss, M, Hoppe, MI, Buyse, K, Codron, D, Meloro, C and Edwards, MS (2022) Diet, habitat and flight characteristics correlate with intestine length in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 289 (1976). ISSN 0962-8452

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A link between diet and avian intestinal anatomy is generally assumed. We collated the length of intestinal sections and body mass of 390 bird species and tested relationships with diet, climate and locomotion. There was a strong phylogenetic signal in all datasets. The total and small intestine scaled more-than-geometrically (95%CI of the scaling exponent > 0.33). The traditional dietary classification (faunivore, omnivore and herbivore) had no significant effect on total intestine (TI) length. Significant dietary proxies included %folivory, %frugi-nectarivory and categories (frugi-nectarivory, granivory, folivory, omnivory, insectivory and vertivory). Individual intestinal sections were affected by different dietary proxies. The best model indicates that higher consumption of fruit and nectar, drier habitats, and a high degree of flightedness are linked to shorter TI length. Notably, the length of the avian intestine depends on other biological factors as much as on diet. Given the weak dietary signal in our datasets, the diet intestinal length relationships lend themselves to narratives of flexibility (morphology is not destiny) rather than of distinct adaptations that facilitate using one character (intestine length) as proxy for another (diet). Birds have TIs of about 85% that of similar-sized mammals, corroborating systematic differences in intestinal macroanatomy between vertebrate clades.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences; 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences; 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: The Royal Society
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2022 09:14
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2022 09:15
DOI or ID number: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0675
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17015
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