Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/78755
Type: Journal article
Title: Food ingestion and water turnover in hummingbirds: how much dietary water is absorbed?
Author: McWhorter, T.
Martinez del Rio, C.
Citation: Journal of Experimental Biology, 1999; 202(20):2851-2858
Publisher: Company of Biologists
Issue Date: 1999
ISSN: 0022-0949
1477-9145
Statement of
Responsibility: 
T.J. McWhorter and C. Martinez del Rio
Abstract: Hummingbirds are specialized nectarivores that feed on dilute solutions of sugars with trace amounts of amino acids and electrolytes. Their diets contain excess water that, if absorbed, must be eliminated. It has been hypothesized that in hummingbirds only a small fraction of this dietary water may be absorbed in the intestine. Here, we report the results of experiments designed to examine the relationship between nectar intake and water turnover in hummingbirds. Our results also allow the estimation of water absorption across the intestine and therefore test the hypothesis that ingested water in hummingbirds passes largely unabsorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. We found that fractional and total water turnover increased linearly with water ingestion. At low sucrose concentrations, food intake rates between four and five times body mass per 12 h were not unusual. A simple mass-balance model suggested that 78 % of ingested water was absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and hence must be processed by the kidneys. However, fractional water absorption was variable and did not appear to be correlated with food or water intake parameters. Our results do not lend support to the hypothesis that the bulk of dietary water passes through the intestine unabsorbed. Although hummingbird kidneys appear well suited to excrete large volumes of dilute urine, rates of energy assimilation in hummingbirds may be constrained by excess water elimination when these birds are feeding on nectars with a low sugar concentration.
Keywords: hummingbird; Selasphorus platycercus; food ingestion; water turnover; diet; osmoregulation; nectar
Rights: © The Company of Biologists Limited 1999
RMID: 0030000489
Appears in Collections:Agriculture, Food and Wine publications

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