The use of body mass loss to estimate metabolic rate in birds.

Steven Portugal, M Guillemette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


During starvation, energy production occurs at the expense of body reserve utilisation which results in body mass loss. Knowing the role of the fuels involved in this body mass loss, along with their energy density, can allow an energy equivalent of mass loss to be calculated. Therefore, it is possible to determine daily energy expenditure (DEE) if two body mass loss measurements at an interval of a few days are obtained. The technique can be cheap, minimally stressful for the animals involved, and the data relatively simple to gather. Here we review the use of body mass loss to estimate DEE in birds through critiquing the strengths and weaknesses of the technique, and detail the methodology and considerations that must be adhered to for accurate measures of DEE to be obtained. Owing to the biology of the species, the use of the technique has been used predominantly in Antarctic seabirds, particularly penguins and albatrosses. We demonstrate how reliable the technique can be in predicting DEE in a non-Antarctic species, common eiders (Somateria mollissima), the female of which undergoes a fasting period during incubation. We conclude that using daily body mass loss to estimate DEE can be a useful and effective approach provided that (1) the substrate being consumed during mass loss is known, (2) the kinetics of body mass loss are understood for the species in question and (3) only species that enter a full phase II of a fast (where substrate catabolism reaches a steady state) and are not feeding for a period of time are appropriate for this method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-36
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


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