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Digestive Capacity and Toxicity Cause Mixed Diets in Red Knots That Maximize Energy Intake Rate
Oudman, T.; Onrust, J.; de Fouw, J.; Spaans, B.; Piersma, T.; van Gils, J.A. (2014). Digestive Capacity and Toxicity Cause Mixed Diets in Red Knots That Maximize Energy Intake Rate. American Naturalist 183(5): 650-659.
In: The American Naturalist. George W. Salt/University of Chicago: Salem, Mass.. ISSN 0003-0147, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Calidris canutus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    diet choice; mixed diet; constraints; toxin; Calidris canutus

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    Among energy-maximizing animals, preferences for different prey can be explained by ranking the prey according to their energetic content. However, diet choice also depends on characteristics of the predator, such as the need to ingest necessary nutrients and the constraints imposed by digestion and toxins in food. In combination, these factors can lead to mixed diets in which the energetically most profitable food is not eaten exclusively even when it is abundant. We studied diet choice in red knots (Calidris canutus canutus) feeding on mollusks at a West African wintering site. At this site, the birds fed primarily on two species of bivalves, a thick-shelled one (Dosinia isocardia) that imposed a digestive constraint and a thin-shelled one (Loripes lucinalis) that imposed a toxin constraint. The latter species is toxic due to its symbiotic association with sulfide-oxidizing bacteria. We estimated experimentally the parameters of a linear programming model that includes both digestive and toxin constraints, leading to the prediction that red knots should eat a mixture of both mollusk species to maximize energy intake. The model correctly predicted the preferences of the captive birds, which depended on the digestive quality and toxicity of their previous diet. At our study site, energy-maximizing red knots appear to select a mixed diet as a result of the simultaneous effects of digestive and toxin constraints.

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