On the optimal growth of the alimentary tract in avian postembryonic development



It was shown in the mathematical model described elsewhere that when growth rate of the chicks is maximized and not constrained by the food availability, the optimal relationship between body mass and alimentary tract mass should conform to a single straight line, or two-, or three-segmented straight lines. Here, we present the data on growth of 11 bird species, and we test the model using the mass of intestines as an indicator of growth of the alimentary tract. The results support the predictions of the model for altricial species and contradict them for precocials. Since precocial species examined here were not food-limited, we suggest that the lack of optimal growth of their alimentary tract is inherent to their mode of development. This may account for their lower growth rate, as compared to altricials. The existence of the optimal growth of the alimentary tract in altricial nestlings suggests that under natural conditions the food is much more abundant than it is generally assumed.