The influence of diet on nestling body condition of an apex predator: a multi‑biomarker approach

Resano Mayor, Jaime; Hernández-Matías, Antonio; Real, Joan; Parés, Francesc; Moleón, Marcos; Mateo, Rafael; Ortiz-Santaliestra, Manuel E. (2016). The influence of diet on nestling body condition of an apex predator: a multi‑biomarker approach. Journal of comparative physiology B, 186(3), pp. 343-362. Springer 10.1007/s00360-016-0967-3

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Animal body condition refers to the health and physiological state of individuals, and multiple parameters have been proposed to quantify this key concept. Food intake is one of the main determinants of individual body condition and much debate has been generated on how diet relates to body condition. We investigated this relationship in free-living Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) nestlings sampled at two geographically distant populations in Spain. Nestlings’ main prey consumption was estimated by isotopic analyses. A multi-biomarker approach, including morphometric and blood biochemical measures (i.e. hematocrit, plasma biochemistry and oxidative stress biomarkers), enabled us to integrate all the body condition measures taken. A greater consumption of a preferred prey [i.e. the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)] improved nestling body condition, as indicated by lower levels of cholesterol in plasma, greater activity of enzymes mediating in protein catabolism, higher levels of tocopherol and glutathione, and less glutathione peroxidase activity, which also suggested lower degree of oxidative stress. On the other hand, increased diet diversity was positively correlated with higher levels of oxidized glutathione, which suggests that these nestlings had poorer body condition than those with a higher frequency of preferred prey consumption. Several factors other than diet [i.e. altitude of nesting areas, nestling sex and age, sampling time (before or after midday) and recent food ingestion] had an effect on certain body condition measures. Our study reveals a measurable effect of diet on a predator’s body condition and demonstrates the importance of considering the potential influence of multiple intrinsic and extrinsic factors when assessing animal body condition.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Resano Mayor, Jaime


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)








Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2017 08:10

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2017 08:10

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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