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Publications [#353247] of Rebecca Rimbach

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Journal Articles

  1. Pontzer, H; Rimbach, R; Paltan, J; Ivory, EL; Kendall, CJ. "Air temperature and diet influence body composition and water turnover in zoo-living African elephants (Loxodonta africana): Water turnover in African elephants." Royal Society Open Science 7.11 (November, 2020): 201155. [doi]
    (last updated on 2021/05/17)

    African elephants, the largest land animal, face particular physiological challenges in captivity and the wild. Captive elephants can become over- or under-conditioned with inadequate exercise and diet management. Few studies have quantified body composition or water turnover in elephants, and none to date have examined longitudinal responses to changes in diet or air temperature. Using the stable isotope deuterium oxide (2 H 2 O), we investigated changes in body mass, estimated fat-free mass (FFM, including fat-free gut content) and body fat in response to a multi-year intervention that reduced dietary energy density for adult African elephants housed at the North Carolina Zoo. We also examined the relationship between air temperature and water turnover. Deuterium dilution and depletion rates were assayed via blood samples and used to calculate body composition and water turnover in two male and three female African elephants at six intervals over a 3-year period. Within the first year after the dietary intervention, there was an increase in overall body mass, a reduction in body fat percentage and an increase in FFM. However, final values of both body fat percentage and FFM were similar to initial values. Water turnover (males: 359 ± 9 l d -1; females: 241 ± 28 l d -1) was consistent with the allometric scaling of water use in other terrestrial mammals. Water turnover increased with outdoor air temperature. Our study highlights the physiological water dependence of elephants and shows that individuals have to drink every 2-3 days to avoid critical water loss of approximately 10% body mass in hot conditions.

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