Document Detail

Stable isotopes may provide evidence for starvation in reptiles.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18613003     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Previous studies have attempted to correlate stable isotope signatures of tissues with the nutritional condition of birds, mammals, fishes, and invertebrates. Unfortunately, very little is known about the relationship between food limitation and the isotopic composition of reptiles. We examined the effects that starvation has on delta13C and delta15N signatures in the tissues (excreta, carcass, scales, and claws) of six, distantly related squamate reptiles (gaboon vipers, Bitis gabonica; ball pythons, Python regius; ratsnakes, Elaphe obsoleta; boa constrictors, Boa constrictor; western diamondback rattlesnakes, Crotalus atrox, and savannah monitor lizards, Varanus exanthematicus). Analyses revealed that the isotopic composition of reptile carcasses did not change significantly in response to bouts of starvation lasting up to 168 days. In contrast, the isotopic signatures of reptile excreta became significantly enriched in 15N and depleted in 13C during starvation. The isotopic signatures of reptile scales and lizard claws were less indicative of starvation time than those of excreta. We discuss the physiological mechanisms that might be responsible for the starvation-induced changes in 13C and 15N signatures in the excreta, and present a mixing model to describe the shift in excreted nitrogen source pools (i.e. from a labile source pool to a nonlabile source pool) that apparently occurs during starvation in these animals. The results of this study suggest that naturally occurring stable isotopes might ultimately have some utility for characterizing nitrogen and carbon stress among free-living reptiles.
Marshall D McCue; Erik D Pollock
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Rapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM     Volume:  22     ISSN:  0951-4198     ISO Abbreviation:  Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom.     Publication Date:  2008 Aug 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2008-07-17     Completed Date:  2008-09-10     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  8802365     Medline TA:  Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  2307-14     Citation Subset:  IM    
Copyright Information:
Copyright (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Department of Biological Sciences, 601 Science Engineering, 1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Carbon / metabolism
Carbon Isotopes / analysis
Feces / chemistry
Nitrogen / metabolism
Nitrogen Isotopes / analysis
Random Allocation
Reptiles / metabolism*
Starvation / metabolism*,  physiopathology
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Carbon Isotopes; 0/Isotopes; 0/Nitrogen Isotopes; 7440-44-0/Carbon; 7727-37-9/Nitrogen

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