Quantitative magnetic resonance analysis and a morphometric predictive model reveal lean body mass changes in migrating Nearctic–Neotropical passerines
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- Seewagen, C.L. & Guglielmo, C.G. J Comp Physiol B (2011) 181: 413. doi:10.1007/s00360-010-0534-2
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Most studies of lean mass dynamics in free-living passerine birds have focused on Old World species at geographical barriers where they are challenged to make the longest non-stop flight of their migration. We examined lean mass variation in New World passerines in an area where the distribution of stopover habitat does not require flights to exceed more than a few hours and most migrants stop flying well before fat stores near exhaustion. We used either quantitative magnetic resonance (QMR) analysis or a morphometric model to measure or estimate, respectively, the fat and lean body mass of migrants during stopovers in New York, USA. With these data, we examined (1) variance in total body mass explained by lean body mass, (2) hourly rates of fat and lean body mass change in single-capture birds, and (3) net changes in fat and lean mass in recaptured birds. Lean mass contributed to 50% of the variation in total body mass among white-throated sparrows Zonotrichia albicollis and hermit thrushes Catharus guttatus. Lean mass of refueling gray catbirds Dumetella carolinensis and white-throated sparrows, respectively, increased 1.123 and 0.320 g h−1. Lean mass of ovenbirds Seiurus aurocapillus accounted for an estimated 33–40% of hourly gains in total body mass. On average 35% of the total mass gained among recaptured birds was lean mass. Substantial changes in passerine lean mass are not limited to times when birds are forced to make long, non-stop flights across barriers. Protein usage during migration is common across broad taxonomic groups, migration systems, and migration strategies.