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Diet and ambient temperature interact to shape plasma fatty acid composition, basal metabolic rate and oxidative stress in great tits

  • Martin N. Andersson
  • Johan Nilsson
  • Jan Åke Nilsson
  • Caroline Isaksson
Publishing year: 2018-12-13
Language: English
Publication/Series: The Journal of experimental biology
Volume: 221
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

Diet and ambient temperature affect animal physiology, survival and reproductive success. However, knowledge of how these environmental factors interact to shape physiological processes and life-history traits of birds and other animals is largely lacking. By exposing adult great tits (Parus major) to two contrasting diets (saturated or unsaturated fatty acids; SFAs and UFAs, respectively) and ambient temperatures (3°C versus 20°C) that the birds encounter in nature, we investigated the effects of these two factors on several physiological parameters. Our results show that diet and ambient temperature interact to affect the composition of plasma fatty acids, basal metabolic rate (BMR) and oxidative stress, which are thought to affect the life-history and survival of individuals. Specifically, birds provided the SFA-rich diet had higher mass-specific BMR and oxidative stress (levels of lipid peroxidation) after exposure to low compared with high ambient temperature, whereas the opposite pattern was evident for birds with a UFA-rich diet. Surprisingly, birds on the SFA diet had higher relative levels of monounsaturated fatty acids compared with the UFA-fed birds at low ambient temperature, whereas the opposite, and expected, pattern was found at the high temperature. Although the present study focuses on the physiological implications of the diet×temperature interaction, our results might also be important for the leading theories of ageing, which currently do not take interactions between environmental factors into account. In addition, the present results are important for wildlife management, especially with regards to anthropogenic feeding of wild animals across variable and changing climatic conditions.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Climate
  • Fatty acids
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Metabolic rate
  • Oxidative stress
  • Parus major


  • ISSN: 1477-9145