Point-of-care Blood Analyzers Measure the Nutritional State of Eighteen Free-living Bird Species

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Point-of-care devices offer the potential to democratize a suite of physiological endpoints and assess the nutritional state of wild animals through plasma metabolite profiling. Measurements of plasma metabolites typically occur on frozen tissue in the laboratory, thus dissociating measurements from field observations. Point-of-care devices, widely used in veterinary and human medicine, provide rapid results (seconds or minutes) allowing in situ measurements of wild animals in remote areas without the need for access to freezers. Using point-of-care devices, we measured glucose, triglyceride, cholesterol and β-hydroxybutyrate levels in plasma from 18 wild bird species spanning nine families and three orders. The values from six different point-of-care devices correlated strongly with one another, and with traditional laboratory measurements from stored plasma (R2 = 0.70–0.90). Although POC devices provided accurate relative values in wild birds, absolute values varied from laboratory measurements by up to 50% illustrating the need for calibration equations. Furthermore, three case studies showed the potential for point-of-care devices at research stations where participants do not have access to a lab and sample preservation is difficult: (i) at a remote seabird colony, birds that were provided with supplemental food had higher levels of glucose and lower β-hydroxybutyrate and cholesterol levels than unfed birds, suggesting they were in a better nutritional state; (ii) at a migration monitoring station, levels of triglycerides of two migratory songbirds increased with time of day, implying that they were fattening during stopover; and (iii) for diving seabirds, individuals that worked harder (shorter surface intervals) had higher glucose and lower β-hydroxybutyrate implying that nutritional state is an index of foraging effort and success. We demonstrate that point-of-care devices, once validated, can provide accurate measurements of the nutritional state of wild birds. Such real-time measurements can aid in ecological research and monitoring, care of wildlife at rehabilitation centres, and in veterinary medicine of exotics.


Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology







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