The importance of the nutritive value of old bones in the diet of Bearded vultures Gypaetus barbatus
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Vultures are central-place foragers and need to optimize their foraging behaviour to offset travel costs by increasing their energy gain. This process is more obvious in certain vulture species that do not feed their young by regurgitation and so must carry food items back to the nest. The Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus is the only species with a bone-diet based. We analysed the chemical composition of bones and the age-related changes in their nutritive value to assess the differences in energy content between bones of differing age, body part and species. We found differences between specific anatomical parts, species and the age of the bones. Fresh bones contain 108% as much energy as fresh meat and, interestingly, dry bones retain 90% of the protein found in fresh bones. Dry femurs weighing 140 g retain enough protein to be comparable to 111 g of fresh meat, in energy terms. Compared to meat-eating species, the specialized osteophagous diet of the Bearded Vulture seems to have certain advantages. A better understanding of nutrient levels in food remains could help to improve theoretical foraging models, assist in conservation management, and even improve our understanding of the use of bones by early hominids.
Is part ofScientific Reports, 2017, núm. 7, article number 8061
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