An experimental test of dietary enzyme modulation in pine warblers Dendroica pinus

Physiol Biochem Zool. Sep-Oct 1999;72(5):576-87. doi: 10.1086/316689.


Modulation of gut function is important in an ecological and evolutionary context because it likely determines what food items an animal can and cannot eat. We examined how diet affects activity of digestive enzymes in an omnivorous bird, the pine warbler (Dendroica pinus). Pine warblers were fed insect-based, fruit-based, and seed-based diets for approximately 54 d. We then measured activity of amylase, maltase, sucrase, aminopeptidase-N, trypsin, chymotrypsin, carboxypeptidase A, carboxypeptidase B, pancreatic lipase, and carboxyl ester lipase. We predicted that carbohydrase activities would be highest in birds fed the diet highest in carbohydrates (fruit based), protease activities would be highest in those fed the diet highest in protein (insect based), and lipase activities would be highest in those fed the diets highest in lipid (insect based and seed based). Also, we predicted that pine warblers would exhibit greater dietary modulation of enzyme activity than reported for a less omnivorous congener, the yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata). All predictions were upheld, supporting the hypothesis that pine warblers modulate the activity of digestive enzymes in proportion to demand from substrates in the diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Digestive System / enzymology*
  • Songbirds / physiology*