Ontogenetic variation in digestion by a herbivorous lizard

Source: Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, vol 77, issue 3, 2004
The hypothesis was tested that an animal with an ontogenetic diet shift must have different digestive efficiencies for foods that correspond to its diet shift, so that nutrient and energy extraction are maximized.
The iguanine lizard (Ctenosaura pectinata) undergoes an ontogenetic diet shift from eating insects as a juvenile to plants as an adult. When fed six different pure foods from the natural diets of different age classes, C. pectinata assimilated nutrients and energy differently depending on food type and age class. Extraction of energy and nutrients in insect larvae was maximized by juvenile lizards. Calcium, phosphorus, and energy were readily assimilated from flowers and fruit by immature and adult lizards. Magnesium levels were highest in leaves and were extracted by immature and adult lizards, but xenobiotic effects of one plant leaf (Croton suberosus), eaten by adults, killed juvenile lizards. Although juvenile C. pectinata ate some flowers (Senna wislizenii) naturally, they were less efficient at digesting cell walls from these plant parts than were older lizards. Ontogenetic changes in ctenosaur digestive physiology were not the result of a trade-off involving ecological costs of different foods; rather, each age class preferred a diet that maximized its physiological benefit.

Title: Ontogenetic variation in digestion by the herbivorous lizard Ctenosaura pectinata

Author: Richard D. Durtsche