Diet Preferences for Specific Fatty Acids and Their Effect on Composition of Fat Reserves in Migratory Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceous)

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Fatty acid composition of body fat in birds often differs between bird species and between seasons, and changes in diet may be responsible for this variation. We tested two related hypotheses using Red-eyed Vireos, a long-distance migratory songbird: (1) birds prefer diets with certain fatty acids, and (2) fatty acid composition of the diet primarily determines the composition of lipid reserves. During paired choice experiments, vireos preferred semi-synthetic diets with triolein (81% digestive extraction efficiency) over diets with tristearin (54% digestive extraction efficiency) and, in general, ate more when offered diets with unsaturated fats compared to saturated fats. These results demonstrate that vireos can discriminate between diets differing only in fatty acid composition and prefer diets with long-chain unsaturated fatty acids. When vireos were fed one of two diets for 1 month, the primary fatty acids in each diet also predominated in the tissues of birds fed each diet. However, some fatty acids that were absent in the diet occurred in bird tissues (e.g., 22:4, 22:5) suggesting that selective metabolism of fatty acids along with diet composition determine the fatty acid composition of lipid reserves in migratory birds.


PMID: 15369840