Metabolic rate and membrane fatty acid composition in birds: a comparison between long-living parrots and short-living fowl

Magdalene K Montgomery, Anthony J Hulbert, William A Buttemer

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Both basal metabolic rate (BMR) and maximum lifespan potential (MLSP) vary with body size in mammals and birds and it has been suggested that these are mediated through size-related variation in membrane fatty acid composition. Whereas the physical properties of membrane fatty acids affect the activity of membrane proteins and, indirectly, an animal s BMR, it is the susceptibility of those fatty acids to peroxidation which influence MLSP. Although there is a correlation between body size and MLSP, there is considerable MLSP variation independent of body size. For example, among bird families, Galliformes (fowl) are relatively short-living and Psittaciformes (parrots) are unusually long-living, with some parrot species reaching maximum lifespans of more than 100 years. We determined BMR and tissue phospholipid fatty acid composition in seven tissues from three species of parrots with an average MLSP of 27 years and from two species of quails with an average MLSP of 5.5 years. We also characterised mitochondrial phospholipids in two of these tissues. Neither BMR nor membrane susceptibility to peroxidation corresponded with differences in MLSP among the birds we measured. We did find that (1) all birds had lower n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in mitochondrial membranes compared to those of the corresponding tissue, and that (2) irrespective of reliance on flight for locomotion, both pectoral and leg muscle had an almost identical membrane fatty acid composition in all birds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127 - 137
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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