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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/495

Title: 15N signatures do not reflect body condition in arctic ground squirrels
Authors: Ben-David, M.
McColl, C.
Boonstra, Rudy
Karels, T.J.
Issue Date: 1999
Publisher: National Research Council Canada
Citation: Can. Zool. 77(9): 1373-1378 (1999)
Abstract: Studies using stable-isotope analysis documented an enrichment in d15N values in nutritionally stressed animals. Investigators suggested that changes in d15N values measured in urine, hair, and blood may be a good indicator of lean-tissue losses. During our investigations into the effects of population density on body condition and reproduction of female Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii plesius) near Kluane Lake, Yukon, Canada, we examined the relations between body condition and d15N values. Data obtained from 20 livetrapped female ground squirrels suggested that reproductive females from a population with moderate density and low food availability experienced a reduction in body condition, as indicated by mass loss and changes in blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and glucose concentrations. In contrast, those from a population that failed to reproduce successfully and had high density and low food availability experienced no nutritional stress. Similarly, those females from a high-density population with high food availability (i.e., supplemented food) that reproduced successfully suffered no noticeable nutritional stress. In contrast to our prediction, d15N values did not show a decline with increasing body mass, and animals in poor and excellent body condition had similar d15N values. In addition, female ground squirrels from the same group with access to similar types of food (natural or supplemented) and with similar body masses, BUN, and blood glucose concentrations showed a difference of up to 1.8‰ in d15N values. Thus, our results suggest that the ecological process (i.e., diet selection) may have obscured the physiological one (i.e., recycling of nitrogen). Therefore, we recommend that field ecologists studying animal diets using stable-isotope analysis use alternative techniques when attempting to evaluate the body condition of their subjects.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/495
Appears in Collections:Biology

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