Energetic basis for bird ontogeny and egg-laying applied to the bobwhite quail

Nina Marn, Konstadia Lika, Starrlight Augustine, Benoit Goussen, Markus Ebeling, David Heckmann, Andre Gergs

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Birds build up their reproductive system and undergo major tissue remodeling for each reproductive season. Energetic specifics of this process are still not completely clear, despite the increasing interest. We focused on the bobwhite quail - one of the most intensely studied species due to commercial and conservation interest - to elucidate the energy fluxes associated with reproduction, including the fate of the extra assimilates ingested prior to and during reproduction. We used the standard Dynamic Energy Budget model, which is a mechanistic process-based model capable of fully specifying and predicting the life cycle of the bobwhite quail: its growth, maturation and reproduction. We expanded the standard model with an explicit egg-laying module and formulated and tested two hypotheses for energy allocation of extra assimilates associated with reproduction: Hypothesis 1, that the energy and nutrients are used directly for egg production; and Hypothesis 2, that the energy is mostly spent fueling the increased metabolic costs incurred by building up and maintaining the reproductive system and, subsequently, by egg-laying itself. Our results suggest that Hypothesis 2 is the more likely energy pathway. Model predictions capture well the whole ontogeny of a generalized northern bobwhite quail and are able to reproduce most of the data variability via variability in (i) egg size, (ii) egg-laying rate and (iii) inter-individual physiological variability modeled via the zoom factor, i.e. assimilation potential. Reliable models with a capacity to predict physiological responses of individuals are relevant not only for experimental setups studying effects of various natural and anthropogenic pressures on the quail as a bird model organism, but also for wild quail management and conservation. The model is, with minor modifications, applicable to other species of interest, making it a most valuable tool in the emerging field of conservation physiology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercoac063
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022


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