Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Effects of diet change on carbon and nitrogen stable-isotope ratios in blood cells and plasma of the long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta)

Marcel Klaassen, Michele Thums and Ian D. Hume

Australian Journal of Zoology 52(6) 635 - 647
Published: 16 December 2004


Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotopes offer a powerful tool for assessing the extent of tissue assimilation of dietary components. However, the method relies on knowledge of diet–tissue isotopic discrimination and how quickly diet shifts become apparent in various tissues. In the present study, blood plasma and blood cells, tissues that are easily obtained under field conditions, were used to validate the stable isotope method over a period of 4–5 weeks using captive long-nosed bandicoots (Perameles nasuta). Diet–tissue discrimination effects appeared to be small. For C, derived diet–tissue isotopic discriminations were 1.4‰ for blood plasma and –0.2‰ for blood cells. For N the values were 2.8‰ and 2.1‰, respectively, and were independent of the nitrogen content of the food. C and N turnover measurements in the blood plasma and cells of the bandicoots indicated that blood plasma provides dietary information integrated over a period of ~3 weeks, whereas blood cells give an impression of the assimilated diet over a period of as much as half a year. These turnover rates were low compared with the little information available for birds and eutherian mammals, and probably relate to the typically low metabolic rate of marsupials.

© CSIRO 2004

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