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

The nature of nutrition: a unifying framework

Stephen J. Simpson A C and David Raubenheimer B C

A School of Biological Sciences & The Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

B Institute of Natural Sciences, Massey University, Albany, Private Bag 102 904, North Shore Mail Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.

C Corresponding authors. Email: stephen.simpson@sydney.edu.au; d.raubenheimer@massey.ac.nz

Australian Journal of Zoology 59(6) 350-368 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO11068
Submitted: 31 August 2011  Accepted: 18 April 2012   Published: 9 May 2012

Abstract

We present a graphical approach, which we believe can help to integrate nutrition into the broader biological sciences, and introduce generality into the applied nutritional sciences. This ‘Geometric Framework’ takes account of the fact that animals need multiple nutrients in changing amounts and balance, and that nutrients come packaged in foods that are often hard to find, dangerous to subdue and costly to process. We then show how the Geometric Framework has been used to understand the links between nutrition and relevant aspects of the biology of individual animals. These aspects include the physiological mechanisms that direct the nutritional interactions of the animal with its environment, and the fitness consequences of these interactions. Having considered the implications of diet for individuals, we show that these effects can translate into the collective behaviour of groups and societies, and in turn ramify throughout food webs to influence the structure of ecosystems.

Additional keywords: ageing, cannibalism, conservation, Geometric Framework.


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