Does sugar content matter? Blood plasma glucose levels in an occasional and specialist avian nectarivore
Nectar composition within a plant pollinator group can be variable, and bird pollinated plants can be segregated into two groups based on their adaptations to either a specialist or an occasional bird pollination system.
Specialist nectarivores rely primarily on nectar for their energy requirements, while occasional nectarivores meet their energy requirements from nectar as well as from seeds, fruit and insects. Avian blood plasma glucose concentration (PGlu) is generally high compared with mammals. It is also affected by a range of factors including species, gender, age, ambient temperature, feeding pattern, reproductive status, circadian rhythm and moult status, among others. We examined whether sugar content affected PGlu of two avian nectarivores, a specialist nectarivore the Amethyst Sunbird Chalcomitra amethystina, and an occasional nectarivore the Cape White-eye Zosterops virens, when fed sucrose-hexose sugar solution diets of varying concentrations (5%-35%). Both species regulated PGlu within a range which was affected by sampling time (fed or fasted) and not dietary sugar concentration. The range in mean PGlu was broader in Amethyst Sunbirds (11.52-16.51mmol/L) compared with Cape White-eyes (14.33-15.85mmol/L). This suggests that these birds are not constrained by dietary sugar concentration with regard to PGlu regulation, and consequently selective pressure on plants for their nectar characteristics is due to reasons other than glucose regulation.
Title: Does sugar content matter? Blood plasma glucose levels in an occasional and specialist avian nectarivore.
Authors: Witteveen M, Brown M and Downs CT.
Source: Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology (2014) volume 167, issue 40-4