, Volume 144, Issue 2, pp 226-232
Date: 13 Apr 2005

The effect of cold-induced increased metabolic rate on the rate of 13C and 15N incorporation in house sparrows (Passer domesticus)

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Animals with high metabolic rates are believed to have high rates of carbon and nitrogen isotopic incorporation. We hypothesized that (1) chronic exposure to cold, and hence an increase in metabolic rate, would increase the rate of isotopic incorporation of both 13C and 15N into red blood cells; and (2) that the rate of isotopic incorporation into red blood cells would be allometrically related to body mass. Two groups of sparrows were chronically exposed to either 5 or 22°C and switched from a 13C-depleted C3-plant diet to a more 13C-enriched C4-plant one. We used respirometry to estimate the resting metabolic rate \((\dot V_{\text{O}_2})\) of birds exposed chronically to our two experimental temperatures. The allometric relationship between the rate of 13C incorporation into blood and body mass was determined from published data. The \(\dot V_{\text{O}_2}\) of birds at 5°C was 1.9 times higher than that of birds at 22°C. Chronic exposure to a low temperature did not have an effect on the rate of isotopic incorporation of 15N save for a very small effect on the incorporation of 13C. The isotopic incorporation rate of 13C was 1.5 times faster than that of 15N. The fractional rate of 13C incorporation into avian blood was allometrically related to body mass with an exponent similar to −1/4. We conclude that the relationship between metabolic rate and the rate of isotopic incorporation into an animal’s tissues is indirect. It is probably mediated by protein turnover and thus more complex than previous studies have assumed.

Communicated by Jim Ehleringer