, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 61-68

Nutrient transfer functions: the site of integration between feeding behaviour and nutritional physiology

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Summary.

We describe and extend a graphical approach to quantitative nutrition that focuses on the interplay between behavioural and physiological components of nutritional regulation. The site of integration is the nutrient transfer function, which is the function describing the time course of nutrient transfer between serially connected nutritional compartments (e.g., from the gut to the blood). The relationship between the shape of the nutrient transfer function and the temporal patterns of feeding determines the values of two key quantitative parameters of nutrition: the rate ('power') and the efficiency of nutrient acquisition. The approach can be extended to consider, in addition to the short-term behavioural and physiological decisions made by animals, some ecological determinants and longer-term, life history consequences of such decisions. Most importantly, this category of models can provide insights into the interplay among the various nutrients in an animal's diet. We illustrate this using hypothetical examples, and also present preliminary data for the power-efficiency relationships of protein and digestible carbohydrates in locusts. Finally, we consider existing evidence for the various means available to these and other insects for regulating such relationships.

Received 24 September 1997; accepted 9 December 1997.